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Now or never: Time-tested strategies that will drive patient loyalty

July 30, 2021
Business Affairs
Tess MacGibbon
By Tess MacGibbon

Loyalty marketing hasn’t really entered the health care landscape. Loyalty in health care was discussed in some niche publications about five years ago. The idea even made the pages of mainstream health care journals, such as Advisory Board and JAMA. Most of those initial discussions suggested taking loyalty cues from direct-to-consumer industries. And that’s where patient loyalty in health care stalled—in the idea phase.

Leverage the advantages of loyalty in health care
That’s unfortunate because health systems are uniquely positioned to leverage the tools and benefits of loyalty. Loyalty in health care has the potential to boost earnings for health systems. And, most importantly, loyalty could improve patient care.

Health systems have an unparalleled opportunity to create and nurture healthcare consumer relationships throughout their entire lifespan—from prenatal to palliative care. However, according to NRC Health, more than one-third of consumers are indifferent to health system brands. And Accenture’s COVID-19 Consumer Health Experience Survey 2020 uncovered that “two-thirds of patients are likely or highly likely to switch to a new health system if their expectations are not met.” While those are less-than-encouraging statistics, motivated health providers should view loyalty as a gap just waiting to be filled.

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The Accenture survey also reports that health systems can expedite their financial recovery and glean patients from competitors by aligning with new consumer expectations. The survey suggests enterprising systems have the potential to surpass their pre-COVID revenue by 5% to 10% within one year. For most health systems, that’s potentially hundreds of millions in additional annual revenue.

One of the biggest potential benefits of successfully designing and implementing loyalty in health care—for both health systems and consumers—is centralization of care. When a health system engenders brand loyalty, the patient experience can proceed uninterrupted. A key part of that is keeping medical records aligned with a sole EMR/EHR platform so patients and physicians can maintain a full picture of patient health.

Think loyalty strategy rather than program
Traditional loyalty programs help ensure repeat—hopefully habitual—business by recognizing and incenting best customers with points or rewards, and by letting them know they’re a valued part of a larger community.

The ideal outcome of health care is a population of healthy people who will benefit from regular preventive care, but hopefully won’t need frequent interactions with their health team. That means the goal of loyalty in health care needs to center on positive, lifelong relationships among health system brands, their patients and their caregivers.

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