Reduce the Churn: Patient Retention Strategies to Build Loyalty in 2021

by | Apr 21, 2021 | Healthcare Industry Insights | 0 comments

With consumers more open to switching healthcare providers, patient retention strategies are emerging as a healthcare marketer’s top priority in 2021.

Among oth­er shifts as the pan­dem­ic con­tin­ues to evolve, con­sumer brand loy­al­ty is chang­ing. This is even true in health­care. The increase in com­pe­ti­tion and demand for a fric­tion­less expe­ri­ence is chal­leng­ing health­care organzi­a­tions’ abil­i­ties to main­tain and improve patient reten­tion rates while hon­ing in on strate­gies that work.

Accord­ing to NRC Health’s 2021 Health­care Con­sumer Trends Report, 46% of con­sumers have already changed their health­care brand pref­er­ences, and 62% expect to change theirs after the pandemic.

The open­ness to switch providers is in large part due to the per­ceived qual­i­ty of safe­ty pro­to­cols, the deliv­ery of time­ly infor­ma­tion and the avail­abil­i­ty of vir­tu­al care. In fact, a recent Accen­ture study found 64% of patients are like­ly to switch providers if they do not meet these expec­ta­tions in respose to COVID-19.

Over the years, many health­care mar­keters have strug­gled to gain a seat at the table when it comes to patient expe­ri­ence dis­cus­sions. How­ev­er, the impact that brand dis­loy­al­ty will like­ly have on providers makes it nec­es­sary for mar­ket­ing to be involved as lead­er­ship explores patient reten­tion strate­gies for healthcare.

As a mar­keter, here are a few key ways you can help your orga­ni­za­tion shape the cus­tomer expe­ri­ence in a way that sup­ports patient reten­tion strate­gies and reduces cus­tomer churn.

Embrace email marketing and text messaging

In 2021, your patients want to be com­mu­ni­cat­ed with reg­u­lar­ly through chan­nels that are con­ve­nient and gen­uine­ly sup­port their health­care needs. The ease of use when shop­ping online and sched­ul­ing appoint­ments has con­di­tioned con­sumers to expect the same expe­ri­ence across all categories—including healthcare.

For exam­ple, if your orga­ni­za­tion isn’t cur­rent­ly using text mes­sag­ing for appoint­ment reminders and email mar­ket­ing to com­mu­ni­cate when new test results are avail­able, the time to start is now.

Encour­age your patient expe­ri­ence team to explore ways to imple­ment these and oth­er more per­son­al out­reach tac­tics. Start by offer­ing mar­ket­ing exper­tise and sup­port when it comes to the tech­nol­o­gy stack, com­mu­ni­ca­tion jour­neys and mes­sag­ing development.

Offer online scheduling for a more convenient path to care

Par­tic­u­lar­ly for the valu­able mil­len­ni­al demo­graph­ic, but increas­ing­ly so for all patients, online sched­ul­ing is a major fac­tor in the expe­ri­ence, loy­al­ty and reten­tion dis­cus­sion. For ser­vices that don’t require a refer­ral, like pri­ma­ry care, many con­sumers will choose the provider who allows them to research providers online and sched­ule appoint­ments directly.

Even in the spe­cial­ty care space, when a patient has a refer­ral or doctor’s order for tests, enabling them to eas­i­ly sched­ule online will enhance their like­li­hood to adhere to their treat­ment plan and con­tin­ue their care jour­ney with your health sys­tem. While this task may not fit with mar­ket­ing at many health sys­tems, it’s marketing’s role to advo­cate for the con­sumer as much as pos­si­ble and cham­pi­on the push for broad­er and eas­i­er online scheduling.

Champion patient education and engagement

For con­di­tions and ser­vices that are either chron­ic or have a lengthy care journey—like dia­betes, heart dis­ease, joint replace­ment and preg­nan­cy—patient edu­ca­tion and engage­ment are crit­i­cal to patient reten­tion, as well as suc­cess­ful outcomes.

Con­sid­er build­ing dig­i­tal cam­paign strate­gies that guide and com­fort con­sumers through the deci­sion-mak­ing process. Some of these patient reten­tion strate­gies include:

  • Devel­op­ing clin­i­cal jour­neys for pro­ce­dures like joint replace­ment and bariatric surgery
  • Gen­er­at­ing con­tent strate­gies and email mar­ket­ing plans that sup­port and edu­cate women at every stage of pregnancy
  • Work with providers and patients to iden­ti­fy the needs and for­mats to best sup­port patients with dia­betes, asth­ma, heart dis­ease, COPD, CHF and more.

Mar­ket­ing is unique­ly qual­i­fied to lead these strate­gies. By lever­ag­ing exper­tise in dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing and con­tent strat­e­gy, and through col­lab­o­ra­tion with clin­i­cal and busi­ness lead­ers, mar­ket­ing teams can move the nee­dle sig­nif­i­cant­ly in dri­ving adher­ence and loy­al­ty through­out the care jour­ney, sub­se­quent­ly improv­ing clin­i­cal out­comes as well.

Own the touchpoints that directly impact customer experience

Anoth­er crit­i­cal task that may not fit with­in the mar­ket­ing depart­ment is man­ag­ing call cen­ters and over­all cus­tomer expe­ri­ence. How­ev­er, chal­lenges in com­mu­ni­cat­ing with call cen­ter rep­re­sen­ta­tives and the lack of a help­ful approach can be frus­trat­ing for con­sumers and may dri­ve disloyalty.

To iden­ti­fy fric­tion points in the patient expe­ri­ence, work as a secret shop­per when set­ting up cam­paign strate­gies to make sure staff mem­bers are field­ing inbound leads appro­pri­ate­ly and help­ing con­sumers get to the access point they need. Use what you learn as an oppor­tu­ni­ty to pro­vide coach­ing and script­ing to call cen­ter staff.

To make a more sys­tem­at­ic impact on the patient expe­ri­ence, work with oper­a­tional lead­er­ship to glob­al­ly address script­ing and cus­tomer ser­vice train­ing to make sure that every phone call inter­ac­tion a patient has is pos­i­tive, and gets them to the care they need. Also, make sure that calls are being answered at all. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, many patients report call­ing to make appoint­ments and not get­ting through or ever hear­ing back at all.

While health­care mar­keters are con­tin­u­ous­ly asked to do more with less, adding patient expe­ri­ence and reten­tion may seem like a tall order. How­ev­er, we all know how chal­leng­ing it is to tru­ly grow patient vol­umes if churn is high, so it’s a worth­while effort to pursue.

If involv­ing and grow­ing a mar­ket­ing strat­e­gy is new for your orga­ni­za­tion, be sure to edu­cate your lead­er­ship on the trends cur­rent­ly evolv­ing when it comes to con­sumer brand loy­al­ty to gen­er­ate buy-in for your patient reten­tion strate­gies. From there, con­sid­er start­ing rel­a­tive­ly small by advo­cat­ing for email mar­ket­ing, text mes­sag­ing and online sched­ul­ing first.

Final thought on patient retention strategies

While not tra­di­tion­al­ly part of a health­care mar­keter’s purview, patient reten­tion is emerg­ing as a top pri­or­i­ty. This is a com­mon thread in our con­ver­sa­tions with health­care lead­ers, and will con­tin­ue to be mis­sion crit­i­cal as health­care moves into an increas­ing­ly com­plex and com­pet­i­tive future.

Apply­ing these patient reten­tion strate­gies will help fos­ter the trust that leads to long-term brand loyalty.

Let’s Collaborate to Reduce Your Patient Churn

Our health­care mar­ket­ing experts can cre­ate dig­i­tal and con­tent mar­ket­ing strate­gies to dri­ve patient acqui­si­tion, edu­ca­tion, engage­ment and loyalty. 

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