Consumer satisfaction has long been associated with consumer loyalty, strong sales and strong profits. A happy consumer meets your price point, returns to give you more business and tells his friends about you. The American healthcare system, as it is currently structured, is largely profit-based. For the United States to provide the care that its people need, the healthcare system itself must be profitable.
It follows, then, that providers and insurance companies must ensure that their constituent healthcare consumers feel satisfied with the care they receive, for those providers and insurance companies (and, in the aggregate, our healthcare system itself) to operate effectively.
How do you do that, though? How do you determine (and cater to) the needs and desires of your consumer population? And, once you develop ways to address your consumers’ needs and wants, how do you measure their satisfaction with your organization’s efforts?
Here are 3 tests that your healthcare consumer engagement model should pass before you put it into practice.
Test 1: Like an effective clinical care model, an effective healthcare consumer engagement model would be evidence-based.
Too many healthcare entities attempt to base their marketing around healthcare consumer profiles that are built on suppositions and assumptions.
Some think they know consumers from their own circumstantial observations in-clinic — observations that lack deep context. Others develop their patient engagement efforts based on “common knowledge.” Many develop engagement approaches based on their own, personal preferences, assuming everyone else sees the world through their own lens. All of these approaches are less than successful.
Big Data is beginning to give us the ability to look past assumptions. Using psychographic modeling and health data analysis, healthcare organizations, hospitals and health insurers can really begin to quantify, classify and motivate their core consumers. That starts by connecting online with your healthcare consumers, asserted athenahealth’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Todd Rothenhaus.
“A key first step to influencing patient behavior ‘between visits’ is digitally connecting patients to their providers,” he wrote. “Our clients’ patients do this via a web portal and mobile tools through which they can exchange secure messages, view and share lab results, pay bills, schedule appointments, and so on.”
Many providers are attempting to do just that. So why does the industry still seem to have such difficulty garnering effective consumer insights?
“The problem,” Rothenhaus argued, “is that practices on the whole aren’t very successful at establishing and maintaining this essential connection with their patients.”
So how can provider organizations become more effective in digital patient engagement? The answer is that organizations should look to partner with vendors that can build, test, tweak and maintain patient portals and other engagement platforms using learnings gathered from the consumers themselves.
PatientBond is one such innovative technology. PatientBond is a platform which drives patient behavior change by automating communications (emails, texts, Interactive Voice Response) and customizing messages according to patients’ psychographic profiles. Each communication has a patient response mechanism allowing for two-way interaction and behavior tracking, allowing a healthcare organization to “manage the exceptions,” or focusing resources on patients who need follow-up, rather than chasing an entire patient population.
Healthcare organizations should look to find ways to tune their marketers’ ears to patients’ frequencies, instead of asking patients to tune themselves to the marketing team’s broadcasts. Patient engagement needs to be based on strategy and active listening.
Test 2: Your engagement model accounts for healthcare consumers’ emotive reasoning.
Medical providers are trained from the get-go to look past emotions and focus on the objectively quantifiable as they render care. Patients’ emotions, new doctors and nurses are told, are chaotic. They’re impossible to quantify. They cloud clinical judgment.
That sort of thinking isn’t necessarily wrong, but it is now possible to more accurately quantify patients’ emotions. We can quantify them by recording and analyzing patients’ actions and reactions across a complicated range of stimuli. However, healthcare consumer engagement programs that rely on new methods or new technology too often ask the wrong questions and record non-meaningful data.
Understanding the healthcare consumer isn’t a matter of recording multiple choice answers and analyzing them for a pattern. It’s about seeking to quantify and qualify the emotions that drive consumers’ behaviors.
“The path to patient engagement lies in finding what motivates people and keep them emotionally interested,” wrote Eric Wicklund in HealthcareITNews, reporting on HIMSS and Healthcare IT News’ Patient Engagement Summit in San Diego last October. “All that technology and talk about medication adherence is surface detail, not the deeper waters where engagement lies.”
“It [was] an enduring theme throughout the two-day conference,” Wicklund noted. “Don't base your entire patient engagement strategy on the newest toys and trends; rather, look at how health or healthcare resonates with people, and then design a program or project around that. Products or strategies that elicit delight, surprise or relief resonate with patients, as do initiatives that strengthen relationships.”
But how can your healthcare organization learn what elicits delight in individual healthcare consumers?
Test 3: Your healthcare consumer engagement model establishes meaningful metrics.
Many healthcare organizations in the US rely on a survey developed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to evaluate patient satisfaction.
But the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems, or HCAHPS, is dependent on consumers’ willingness to participate. It’s somewhat skewed from the start — patients with strong positive or strong negative opinions are usually the only ones who will voluntarily complete the survey.
“While HCAHPS does provide important insights into the patient experience, it does not assess all of the important aspects of that experience,” wrote Carrus, et al., in the McKinsey on Healthcare blog. “Furthermore, it was not designed to provide the level of detail needed for hospitals to link patient satisfaction with business performance.”
HCAHPS gives providers no insight into who their consumers are. It doesn’t classify responses by personality profile. It doesn’t explain emotive reasoning. It doesn’t help organizations understand how to do things right — it only tells them when they have, or have not, and after the fact.
All learnings gleaned from HCAHPS and other voluntary consumer satisfaction surveys are garnered from a service recovery footing. They’re subjective and lack context. That’s where psychographic analysis can help. Psychographic segmentation has the ability to unlock something heretofore impossible to realize in clinical practice: It gives organizations the ability to proactively tailor personal interactions, provider-patient communications, post-discharge instructions, marketing and engagement efforts to resonate with various “health personalities,” each of which has different motivations and communication preferences. This is because psychographics pertain to people’s values, lifestyles, priorities and attitudes.
And psychographics doesn’t just personalize communications, it optimizes them — for each patient — toward what would be most effective in causing that patient to take the actions the provider needs him or her to take. And to do so gladly. To be satisfied in doing so. This recognizes that patient engagement is not enough. Engagement without behavior change is simply an activity with no meaningful outcome.
We now have the power to look into healthcare consumers’ minds and understand how and why they do what they do. And once a provider has the power to understand, a provider has the power to persuade.
Psychographic segmentation and practice augmented with consumer insights represent a next frontier in medicine. It gives your organization the ability to apply the scientific method to patient engagement and patient persuasion.
For clinicians reared in an objectified, scientific world that has traditionally looked past consumers’ emotions, psychographic segmentation is a new path for healthcare business experimentation. It’s a way to become more profitable by finally learning how to satisfy all your patients.