Many people are justifiably suspicious about the extent of the commercial practices which exists within the healthcare industry. However, in this country there is sadly no getting away from it. America is the land of the big pharma’s most profitable customer base, where healthcare is suffering a dearth of new talent, and where the best healthcare really does come to those who can afford it. This is the way it has been for a long time, and there’s no changing it any time soon.
Accordingly, it is not terribly surprising that terms like “customer satisfaction” and “demand” are frequently heard in the healthcare context as well. Nevertheless, while many consider this state of affairs somewhat mercenary and deleterious to healthcare in general, it is possible to consider customer satisfaction and the resultant “patient loyalty” as an indicator that a healthcare institution is providing a high level of care. It might all be framed like a business, but if you achieve patient loyalty, you are doing something right.
What is Patient Loyalty?
But what does “patient loyalty” really mean. Health Jobs Nation wide, a jobs board offering, among others, physician assistant jobs, say that learning how to achieve this is even a part of many health jobs training and degrees. This is all the more reason you can translate it to “providing satisfactory healthcare”.
However, you also need to think about it in the business context. Fostering patient loyalty is the same thing as encouraging patients (customers?) to come back to your healthcare institution, convinced that, based on their past experiences, you are a safe pair of hands for their health problems. It might sound a bit crass to say it, but this is broadly the same model as securing a new subscriber to a streaming service or fostering customer loyalty in a department store. The substantial difference though is that those pursuits are not a matter of life and death.
Tips, Advice, and Best Practices for Fostering Patient Loyalty
So it’s in your interests – commercial, professional, and moral – to foster some kind of patient loyalty as the manager of a healthcare institution or as a healthcare professional. There are certainly ways to do that and a lot of good advice out there to defer to. Here follows some tips:
First Impressions Matter
It doesn’t take long to form a first impression and you have no second chance where this is concerned. Accordingly, first impressions of a healthcare institution are made by the office or reception staff. It really does fall on their shoulders. Make sure that your reception staff are warm, welcoming, knowledgeable, and friendly. That will go a long way.
Convenience is Very Important
Patients want their healthcare to be effective, but they also want it to be convenient. We have data to support the fact that patients will happily swap their healthcare provider for the sole reason of getting a more convenient appointment – and getting it quicker. Beyond appointments, healthcare convenience also takes the form of a simple billing process and even more innovative techniques, such as remote healthcare provision (telehealth).
Another thing that will bring patients back is if they know – or better yet, trust – you. To build up this trust, it’s important that physicians spend enough time with patients, respond to their questions, and help to allay their fears and concerns. It’s also important to build a relationship with patients, which means the same doctor seeing the same patient each time they come in.
It might be a sad situation that hospitals and clinics share so much in common with the business world. But they do and patient loyalty still amounts to good healthcare.