Bringing the principles of customer engagement to the healthcare industry
Two things we all know already…
- Under increasing competitive pressure, the healthcare industry has been witnessing a game-changing realisation of the need to provide customers with a really great brand experience.
- This situation has been compounded by the seismic shift of emphasis away from the treatment of illness and towards ailment prevention.
On the one hand it’s about developing a positive patient relationship by ensuring that anyone interacting with your brand gets a consistent experience wherever and whenever they come into contact with it. On the other, it’s about capitalising on the multiplicity of channels through which today’s savvy consumers seek to monitor and manage their own health.
And five things to consider in building that great brand experience…
1. Know who you’re talking to
Each patient has different needs and expectations. And that, says Angela Coulter, can lead to conflicting views about marketing priorities. Three of the patient’s chief requirements are:
- Rapid access to reliable health advice
- Participation in decisions and respect for preferences
- Clear, coherent information and support for self-care
So health advice information is key, and access to that information in a way that suits the needs of the patient is essential. Healthcare providers and insurers can exploit data and reports like this to plan communications with patients and make resources available for them when they want it. Top priority is a move towards providing healthcare information digitally.
2. Understand patients’ expectations
Listen to your patients by creating and managing channels through which they can tell you what they want, what they find useful and what they think you could improve on.
Patient surveys and feedback forms can be extremely useful. Another option is to create an online community in which patients can exchange ideas and discuss healthcare provision. The Mayo Clinic, for example, promotes an online forum where patients can get healthcare advice, share with others who’ve experienced similar health conditions or find support.
It’s always good to demonstrate that you’re listening and open to your patients’ views but the real differentiator is how you convert all this feedback into positive action. First off, never fail to respond to people who offer feedback; let them know how their suggestions have been turned into actions. Such personal attention will do wonders for the strength of your brand.
3. Encourage customers to share with you
Health apps on smartphones and devices are great for healthcare consumers who like to monitor their own health. Apps have two advantages: while they enable patients to measure and analyse their health, they can also provide useful data for healthcare providers.
For instance, UK health and life insurance company Vitality Health rewards customers with ‘Vitality points’ if they join a partner gym or parkrun, or take up walking, running, cycling or swimming with a linked activity tracking device. Rewards range from free Starbucks coffee or cinema tickets, to supermarket vouchers or spa treatments. They even give you gym membership at half price, keeping premiums down for those whose data is showing they are being healthy and active.
And, in return, Vitality Health learns a great deal about its customers’ lifestyles.
4. Be open, be straight-talking
Consumers value frank and open conversations with brands and businesses, a trend brilliantly exploited by Cleveland Clinic in the US. In response to the perceived public appetite for openness, Cleveland made significant investment in healthcare marketing strategies, heavy on content marketing and spanning digital, social and traditional media.
The payback has been phenomenal. Cleveland Clinic’s blog, Health Essentials, has become a leading voice in amplifying the brand, with all content generated by hospital medical personnel, many of whom are acknowledged experts in their fields. In 2014, Health Essentials was registering around 2.7 million visits a month; today the clinic has more than 1.5 million page likes on Facebook, and 550,000 Twitter followers. And ClevelandClinic.org is now the most visited hospital site in the USA.
Their secret? High quality, relevant and useful content.
5. Educate and empower your staff
In a recent patient survey, more than 70 per cent of patients said that staff attitude resulted in a greater positive impression of the overall healthcare experience. In the banking industry that number is only 33 per cent. And 75 per cent of respondents say emotion plays a major part in healthcare decision making.
It follows that your staff are central in building patient engagement. So give them all the resources, training and materials they need to provide a service that matches your brand values and creates a positive impression.
Many healthcare providers – Varian Medical Systems, Transitions Optical and Boston Scientific, for example – deploy centralised, online brand management platforms in which staff can learn the skills they need to deliver a high level of patient experience – in short, how to ‘live’ the brand.
Rewarding staff members who succeed can also be a powerful motivator. So it’s well worth encouraging your patients and staff themselves to nominate those who go out of their way to deliver a great patient experience.
An environment in which patients can access health information and tools they need to monitor their health can have a tremendous impact on how your brand is perceived. Open lines of communication will engender trust among your patients. Staff well trained in empathetic patient care and understanding will endorse and promulgate a positive brand impression.
And all that will help your business flourish and grow. It has to be worth it!
[i] Angela Coulter: The NHS revolution: health care in the market place [ii] PWC Customer experience in healthcare: The moment of truth [iii] 2012 Symposium on Human Factors and Ergonomics in Health Care