Earning patient loyalty in the era of healthcare consumerism

December 10, 2019 7:32 pm

In today’s healthcare environment of rising out-of-pocket spending and consumerism, it may go without saying that patient loyalty is an important goal and essential success metric, but there are some concrete reasons why fostering loyalty can have a significant positive impact. First, attracting and engaging new patients requires effort and expense that may be much greater than what’s required simply to serve current patients well. Although an expanding patient population can be an important driver of overall growth and revenue, failing to satisfy and keep patients once they’re acquired can diminish the benefit of these efforts.

Second, loyal patients have the potential to share their positive experiences and serve as a source of referrals. At the very least, it’s important to avoid negative patient experiences and comments, if possible. Inspiring or encouraging satisfied patients to share their experiences with others and recommend your organization to potential new patients is even better.

Finally, loyalty can be a valuable source of stability and strength in a highly dynamic industry. Healthcare is evolving rapidly, and in many markets, price and competitive pressure are affecting organizations large and small. While there’s no way to completely insulate or futureproof against forces like regulatory change, technology innovation, competitive developments, and economic and societal trends, the provider-patient relationship is and always will be essential. Loyal patients may be willing to stay the course even when prices increase, new options arise or other change occurs. At scale, this can make a big difference.

What motivates loyalty?

Synchrony, CareCredit’s parent company, recently conducted extensive research on consumer loyalty, encompassing multiple qualitative focus groups and a quantitative survey of 1,500 U.S. adults. The research was designed not just to capture participants’ opinions and experiences related to loyalty, but also to identify the more fundamental motivations involved in generating and sustaining loyalty.

In analyzing the study results, researchers identified eight distinct motivators of loyalty, but by far, the strongest motivator for consumers is trust. This single factor drives loyalty for 43% of consumers, and it is involved in decisions to switch to another source (e.g., retailer, brand, provider) 50% of the time. Consumers surveyed are looking for brands that are trustworthy, reliable, dependable and honest, and that stand behind their products and services.

Second only to trust is simplicity. Not surprisingly, in today’s fast-paced world of information overload, overpacked schedules and complexity at every turn, consumers highly value simplicity. When providers can make things easy and efficient, eliminate hassles and offer convenience, consumers are likely to reward them with abiding loyalty. Simplicity is a key driver of loyalty for 24% of consumers, but it’s even more important to those considering a switch. The search for greater simplicity drives decisions to shift loyalty in 48% of cases, making it nearly as important as trust.

Beyond these top motivators, other factors can play some role in earning consumer loyalty or inspiring a competitive switch. Shared values and recognition have a small overall influence on loyalty, but they can spur a switch for 22% of consumers. Rounding out the eight motivators are lower-impact factors such as enjoyment, belonging, prestige and inspiration and excitement.

Takeaways for healthcare

The results of Synchrony’s research apply to consumer motivations and behaviors in general, but they also have specific implications for healthcare. For example, even in an age of online commerce and mobile shopping, the in-person experience is essential to establish loyalty. Apart from telemedicine or phone consultations, healthcare services almost always involve in-person interactions, which creates opportunities to engage with patients in a way that inspires trust, allows for personalization and opens the door to demonstrate shared values. Of course, making the experience simple and convenient is important too, although this may be more challenging than a typical retail transaction.

Healthcare providers who want to build trust and make the patient experience simple can do things like making sure patient areas in facilities are clean and clutter-free, staff are friendly and personable, and messaging and materials are clear and consistent. This applies across media and use cases, whether a patient visits your website, checks out your social media presence, calls your office, visits in person or receives a letter or email. At every touch point, your brand should look and feel consistent, information should be clear and simple and patients should have, and expect, an experience that is appealing and helpful.

This effort may sound daunting, but an easy place to start is simply by being honest and transparent. When the information you share and the way you operate truly reflect who you are, it’s easier to ensure that messaging and materials are consistent, that your values and personality can reach and resonate with patients, and their experiences are likely to be positive and predictable.



This content is subject to change without notice and offered for informational use only. You are urged to consult with your individual business, financial, legal, tax and/or other advisors with respect to any information presented. Synchrony and any of its affiliates, including CareCredit, (collectively, “Synchrony”) makes no representations or warranties regarding this content and accept no liability for any loss or harm arising from the use of the information provided.



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