Physicians taking steps to increase patient loyalty and revenue

By Karen Andrews, SVP, Commercial Banking, Professional Services

How can measuring and managing your patients’ experience enhance patient loyalty and increase revenue?

Today’s changing healthcare landscape provides both opportunities and challenges for physicians to increase patient loyalty and maintain profitability. Measuring and managing their patients’ experience has become increasingly important in running a successful practice.

Patients as Consumers

In the new healthcare environment, insurance providers are passing on more of the cost of medical care to the public. In addition, some patients have had to move to higher deductible health plans in order to keep monthly premiums affordable. A 2015 Kaiser Family Foundation study showed nearly one quarter of those with employer-provided coverage had high-deductible health plans, up from 20 percent in 2014 and 4 percent from 10 years ago.

The result? With patients now responsible for a greater portion of their healthcare bills, they act more like consumers — becoming more cognizant of when and with whom they spend their healthcare dollars. For example, patients will likely do more comparison shopping when choosing a location for a preventative test or for a physician. As with other consumer decisions, price and satisfaction will be key determinants in choosing medical care from a provider or medical practice in the new healthcare environment.

Creating Value

Another factor contributing to the quest for greater patient loyalty is the reimbursement shift from a fee-for-service to a value-added model. This shift combines evidenced-based quality data with patient perceived value. According to Accretive Health, a Chicago-based company which helps hospitals and physicians manage and collect patient revenue, a value-based model requires providers to make the right investments at the right time and have the resources, talent and processes that can be scaled as needed. With reimbursements being controlled to an amount for specific illness episodes, scalability through increased patient volume can equate to more cost benefits for the practice.

Providing a 360-degree, holistic approach for patients can also offer additional opportunities for revenue through early detection testing for illness and disease. This can be as simple as providing a flu shot or offering diabetes testing and management and obesity clinics to treat more advanced health issues.

Physicians need to walk a fine line — being as efficient and effective as possible in order to be profitable — while continuing to provide high-quality care and be the trusted advisors that patients rely on. With the shift to a value-added model, physician-patient interaction is elevated from an experience that’s historically been transaction-based to one that deepens relationships with patients who are more consumer oriented.

Enhanced Marketing

In today’s healthcare environment, more medical practices are viewing patients as clients in the same way as traditional businesses and using marketing and communication tools to increase touchpoints with patients. For example, surveys, which have been used by other industries for many years, are now being incorporated in medical practices to assess patient satisfaction, increase market share and boost patient loyalty.

Physician practices increasingly use surveys to measure the entire patient experience — from booking the appointment to tracking the patient visit to the follow-up care afterward. By measuring the wait time while in the office, including the check-in time and time in the exam room before the physician visit begins, the practice can track staff efficiency and friendliness. Measuring the physician relationship allows the practice to gauge patient loyalty, identify problem areas, and address patient concerns.

Beyond surveys, data analytics can provide meaningful information to practice managers about the patient population, to track patient activity and to help identify additional revenue sources to boost top-line growth. For example, analytics can be used to help prompt patients — via email or other communications — to make appointments for their annual physicals, for children’s vaccinations or to schedule tests like colonoscopies or mammograms. This type of invaluable information can help to build patient loyalty and create accountability for the providers, all while enhancing the quality of patient care and wellness through early identification of health issues.

Investing in Medical Practices

Changes in the healthcare environment necessitate that physicians make an investment in their medical practices for a profitable future. Investing in additional technology and software to incorporate data analytics and marketing tools enables practices to build long-term patient loyalty. Investments like these will position practices positively in an era where the patient, as a smart consumer and self-advocate, will control where and for how long physicians meet their needs.