Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Loyal and True

As I have said before, health care is its own animal when it comes to a free market economy. Health care does not operate like cars, groceries or other commodities. You can’t build loyalty among health care consumers only with incentives like points or cash back rewards. When it comes to health care consumers, there are more complex barriers you must overcome in order to transform them into repeat and loyal customers.

Like all providers of goods and services, as health care providers, we all strive to provide consumers (patients) with the highest quality service (care) that will hopefully result in a positive experience and predisposition to return if additional services are needed. However, unlike with other transactional experiences, a positive patient experience and satisfaction does not directly correlate to loyalty. It can certainly help to move the dial in the right direction, but in the case of health care, satisfaction alone does not drive loyalty. 

While a patient might have been highly satisfied with the treatment they received, there are still barriers that can prevent a patient from returning the next time they need care. These could include:

  • Uncertainty. Not knowing if he/she needs care and which level of care is the most appropriate.
  • Research. Relying on various sources to find the right provider. This includes searching online, talking to their primary care doctor or even getting recommendations from friends or family.
  • Access. Not being able to easily make an appointment. This could be as a result of technology or capacity issues at an office.
  • Location. The location of the provider is either difficult to find or too far away.

So, what can we do to overcome these barriers and ensure their loyalty?

Here are three key steps to help get the patient back through your door:

Communicate next steps in their treatment plan before the leave their initial visit. Let patients know what their follow up care should entail and when they should pursue it. You can do this through warm hand offs to a follow up provider in your service network or even co-locating services in the same building. Have your team make the follow up appointments to ensure a seamless experience for the patient. Ongoing communication with the patient after they leave can also help prompt them to take their next step in care.

Motivate patients to return by helping them understand the health benefits of ongoing care and the burdens (financial, emotional and or physical) of foregoing care. This will inspire them to reengage.

Stay top of mind by continuing to reach out and initiate contact once they have left your facility. Provide them with opportunities to engage in wellness and lifestyle offerings—yoga, meditation or exercise and fitness classes. Often providers can leverage community partnerships to help facilitate and cost share these opportunities. By expanding offerings from treatment for illness or injury to wellness services, providers move from being a one-time medical solution to an ongoing health partner.

At the end of the day, patients want to know there is one place they can go to meet all of their health and wellness needs. From a patient’s perspective, loyalty can not only offer convenience, it can also help cement a level of comfort knowing that they have a medical home to turn to. And from a provider perspective, by reducing barriers and providing opportunities for engagement, you will increase patient loyalty and grow your business and brand.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

New Roads Ahead

In the first two posts of my three-part series, I provided you with a foundation to better understand the role of consumerism in health care today. I offered some organizational prompts and tools to help you start to develop a consumer-facing plan for your organization. But now we must face the big question… how do we make consumerism a reality in your organization?

As I have said before, the health care industry, or really the delivery of care, is dramatically changing. The rise of consumerism represents a radical paradigm shift in the industry. As a result, there will be challenges along the way as you integrate consumerism into your organization -- the most significant of which is the right speed and the right moment for implementation. You need to understand that things are slow to change, so you have to time your approach accordingly. You also don’t want to get there too fast as you might leave everyone behind, including the patients. You need to map the adoption rate to the actual customer, which is the tricky part. 

While there will certainly be challenges, they are not insurmountable. By asking the right questions, understanding your audience, preparing for the tricky moments and maintaining focus, you will have the tools you need. Here are five tips that will help you be successful:

Tip #1: Understand your bandwidth to do this work.
  • What do you have?
  • What do you need?
  • If you are committed to this work, you need to fill this void with people who know what they are doing—who can hit the ground running.
  • Consider hiring people from outside the healthcare industry to implement this work.

Tip #2: Start off slow and be practical.
  • Get a couple of quick wins under your belt.
  • Don’t bite off more than you can chew.

Tip #3: Be willing to fail.
  • Failure does not mean you are bad. Failure means you are innovative.

Tip #4: Be able to track and trend.
  • What problem are you trying to solve?
  • Be able to quantify where you are before you deploy the new technology or program and measure where you are after it is in place. This shows the value in what you are doing.

Tip #5: Focus on how something can be done and not on how something cannot be done.
  • Set attainable goals. 

At the end of the day, in our industry, we can all choose to walk one of two paths. The first is the path most traveled. It is the one that continues to do things the way they have always been done when it comes to health care. The path less traveled is the one that recognizes health care delivery, as we know it, is changing.  It is a path of innovation, creativity and looking at the world through a new and different lens. I hope you will join me here.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Not Your Grandma's Health Care

The health care landscape is quickly and dramatically changing. In my last post--the first of my three-part series on consumerism--we talked about this change and how critical it will be to design a consumer facing health care strategy in the new environment.

As I explained, the first step in plan development is taking an inventory of your current services, determining where you would like to expand or grow your consumer base and evaluating your capacity to do so. The second step, which I believe is the most critical, is all about your customer – getting to know who they are, what they want and what matters most to them. This is really the key to success.

But how do you achieve this?

Today’s health care consumer is not the same as in previous generations. In the past, we would focus on one core customer—the critically ill. Now, what people want, need and are willing to pay for in terms of care and services depends on age, health and family needs, priorities and preferences. We can no longer design health care services with one consumer in mind. In order to develop a successful consumer facing plan, you need to know and understand the four types of health care consumers:

  • Young invincibles: healthy, active community members who are health conscious but are not big users of health services
  • Young families: healthy young parents with various health needs for a range of ages
  • Healthy adults: established community members who lead active lifestyles but may opt for preventative and elective care and services
  • Chronically ill: individuals with chronic diseases that require specialty care and resources 

Next, ask the right questions:
  • How can I anticipate and address the SPECIFIC needs of each of these four core customer groups?
  • How do these groups traditionally show up in our community? What do I anecdotally know about them and is there historical data I can review to help me understand their engagement patterns?
  • How am I going to get them them what they need, where they need it and when they need it at a reasonable cost, at a high level of quality and accessibility?

And if you’re not doing so already, you will want to engage (full tilt) with a database or Customer Relationship Management system to help you better understand your consumers and track and trend their behavior. Your ability to apply analytics and deploy data in your decision making will be critical to your success.

Once you have answered these questions, you should be armed with the information you need to determine the value you can deliver. Here, value can be defined as the ability to provide access to affordable high-quality care and services. Just remember: when it comes to health care and services, value means something different to a 27-year old versus a 50-year old.

At the end of the day, value, and our ability to create it, is the end goal.  If we are to provide our consumers with services that they deem to be of value, we will be well on our way to keep them coming back for more. And once you have answered the value proposition, you will be one step closer to fully realizing consumerism in your organization.


Next: In the third of this three-part series, I will offer five tips to ensure success in implementing a consumerism plan in your organization.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Give the People What They Want

I recently read a fascinating article in the Wall StreetJournal on the changing model of hospitals and the new ways in which they are beginning to deliver care. As the author, Laura Landro, explains “the sprawling institutions we know are radically changing—becoming smaller, more digital, or disappearing completely. The result should be cheaper and better care.”

As more of my work pushes me into the consumer-focused health care space, I find myself deeply intrigued by Landro’s vision of the future. She defines a new health care landscape where providers are shifting their focus away from their monolithic inpatient facilities. Instead, they’re placing their energy and resources in serving their patients out in the community where they live—moving from an internal service model to an external one. To do this, providers must expand their service lines to offer more outpatient treatment and convenient care options at strategic locations across the regions they serve. In addition, they’re increasing their investment in technology and turning to telehealth (delivery of health care remotely via the internet) to serve more patients in real time.

As the leader of the second largest hospital in Florida, I know the critical importance of a high quality, accessible and traditional health care setting.  But I also believe that health care providers and facilitators will quickly need to adapt to a changing environment that is highly influenced by consumer behavior. Our ability to be nimble and operate in this new space will be critical to our success and survival.

As Landro acknowledges, many of the changes in care delivery are being driven by economics, but they’re also significantly informed by desires of the patient, or as I now refer to them, the health care consumer. In today’s world, consumerism drives our business - and price, quality and convenience are more important than ever. Increased access to technology, the availability of medical information online, and the rise in smartphones, apps and wearable fitness and health devices, are other factors driving consumer-focused health care.

While many of us understand this in theory, how do we begin to think about putting it into practice?

Like everything we do, careful planning and strategy design are critical to success. When developing your consumerism health care plan, consider the following key questions:
  • How will you gather and analyze meaningful patient data? Developing insights into patients’ behavior and expectations is vital.
  • Have you begun to segment your customer base based on age, risk factors, lifestyle and activity level?
  • Which service lines are in the greatest demand within your consumer population and community? Does offering or enhancing these services makes sense to your bottom line and to the consumers you serve?
  • Do the spaces for care and treatment center around patients (both their experience and efficiency)?
  • Have you considered the ways in which you can holistically integrate all patient management—appointment, tests, etc.?
  • Do you have a plan to invest in technology? Technology is a key driver in consumerism. More importantly, patient-facing technology is critical in order to drive digital natives to engage with your health care organization.

There’s no secret sauce in designing and implementing consumer facing health care but there are two key elements to start with. First, you need to work to have the sufficient services available and second, you need to know your customers. This means spending a significant amount of your time developing a deep understanding of your customer base—who they are, what they want and need and what messages resonates with them. At the end of the day, health care is no different than any other business marketing to a defined customer demographic and/or consumer base.

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In my next post I will offer some tips to help make consumerism a reality in your organization.