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Earning Patient Loyalty through Exceptional CX

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Patients are flooded with new options for where they seek care and to whom they refer their friends. Competition is literally on every corner – Walgreens, CVS, a new pop-up Urgent Care. Why navigate a broken system when they could just pack up and move on?

The truth is, despite growing a number of options, patients want to be loyal to your organization because researching and vetting new care options is time-consuming and draining – especially for patients who are on an emotional journey. Yet patients are walking away from providers every day in search of better experiences. It’s clear, healthcare providers must do more to earn patient loyalty.

Satisfaction v. Loyalty

Patient satisfaction is an expectation. It is a measure of how well the encounter aligns to the patient’s preconceived understanding of how the visit would go. Satisfaction is expected all day, every day, with every encounter, and relying on satisfaction scores alone to drive loyalty is a dangerous premise.

Loyalty is simply how frequently a patient chooses and recommends a care facility. And the psychology behind that choice is just as simple – patients know they can go to any provider for satisfactory service, but what keeps them loyal is the experience an organization and its providers deliver. 

Creating Experiences That Drive Loyalty

Nailing the clinical aspect of care is paramount in fostering loyalty, but the experiential aspect (directions to the clinical site, general information, parking, being on-time, etc) is surfacing more and more as a key loyalty driver. 

Findings from the Deloitte Health Care Consumer Survey show that convenient hours and accessibility is the most important factor in searching for a new doctor or medical professional for 32% of respondents. 

Facing a litany of details that have a big impact on patient experience, how should practitioners go about creating and delivering exceptional experiences that get to the heart of what matters to patients? 

  • Personalized Care: Knowing Mrs. Smith likes to have a warm blanket while she receives her IV infusion and having that blanket waiting for her at her preferred infusion station. Or check-up calls with patients the day after they have received a difficult diagnosis to listen and offer comfort. 
  • Timely & Effective Closed-loop Processes: Real-time feedback to all members of the healthcare team–physicians, nurses, housekeeping, nutrition services, etc.–to see what they did well, and link it back to the patient encounter and make changes in their interactions with patients. 
  • Data-driven Operations: Unit managers and staff making systemic changes to workflows based upon what patients are saying, and seeing if they make an impact on results and outcomes.
  • Engaged Employees: Valuing input from those that are closest to the patient, and have the greatest impact on experiences delivered. Ensuring employees are satisfied with their work environment, so they can focus on providing the best possible care. 
  • Continuous Improvement: Ongoing commitment across the organization to identifying and repairing experience gaps.

Conclusion: Every Encounter Matters

In-the-moment experiences are where the impact is made, and valuing the voice of the patient as your guide to creating those experiences is key. Changing the hold music in the ambulatory setting after a mom provides feedback that it’s emotionally hard to hear when she is making appointments for her child may seem like a small change to the organization, but it had a huge impact on the mom. These are the defining moments that can build or diminish loyalty, and each of them matters. Creating these “Moments that Matter” is critical, and these are what patients will remember from their care journey with your organization. 

For more tips on how to build loyalty at your organization, check out the Patient Loyalty 101 webinar where my colleague, Belinda Simmons, and I demonstrate how meaningful action on patient feedback aligns experiences with satisfaction, improving patient loyalty.


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