Healthcare has a customer engagement problem. The reason why is easy to understand: healthcare organizations interact with consumers episodically, have a long history of emphasizing traditional communication channels, and experience a lot of disruption. Healthcare payers and providers also tend to lag their peers in other industries in technology adoption, largely because of the regulations governing their operations.
There is still hope. Healthcare organizations have the chance to improve their customer engagement and patient satisfaction by adopting a consumer-centric model. Healthcare organizations have tried to make this transition for some time, but privacy regulations, outdated technologies, and organizational silos have stymied their efforts.
As a result, healthcare has lagged its retail and financial services peers in personalizing the customer experience. This is a problem for the healthcare market. Boston Consulting Group recently found that $800 billion in revenue will, over the next five years, shift to the top 15 percent of companies who get personalization right in retail, healthcare, and financial services.
Healthcare organizations must adopt a consumer-centric culture if they wish to capture any portion of that revenue increase. To make this transition, healthcare organizations need to adopt a new way of thinking, take lessons from the best in other industries, and ensure that they have the right technology in place.
The rise of high-deductible health plans (HDHPs) in the United States has wrought substantial changes in how Americans treat healthcare. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, 43.2 percent of Americans were covered by high-deductible health plans in 2017 – and the number is only increasing. People covered by HDHPs pay anywhere from 20 to 50 percent of their medical care out of pocket; because of this, consumers are becoming more cost-conscious in their healthcare and have increased their demands for a better experience as well as price transparency.
Consumer demands for a more holistic experience, better outcomes, and greater transparency in pricing are some of the key factors powering the shift toward consumerism in healthcare. Delivering a consumer-centric model in support of this shift requires highly relevant communications that effectively meet heightened customer expectations. Highly relevant communications are impossible to deliver without forming a deep understanding of each customer’s needs and removing friction from all interactions.
Adopting a consumer-centric approach could take the form of more educational materials on preventive care, details on a health plan’s benefits, or even reminders about the need for check-ups or other screenings, all delivered in ways that are personalized and contextually aware of where a consumer is in their journey. The benefits to successfully becoming more consumer-centric are substantial. For example, healthcare payers who engage consumers better than their peers will benefit from greater member satisfaction and enhanced brand attachment.
Healthcare organizations looking to adopt the principles of consumer-centric operations need to look beyond their industry’s best practices. Retailers, financial institutions, and travel and hospitality brands have already shifted into a consumer-centric model. If anything, the ability of retailers to personalize the customer experience based on past history is what sparked the increase in customer expectations healthcare organizations must now address.
Healthcare organizations can catch up to consumer expectations by applying personalization lessons from the retail industry. Although retailers have fewer privacy rules than healthcare organizations, the delivery of personalized messaging in a retail setting is indicative of what consumers expect to receive. Amazon, Walmart, and other retail brands have set the tone that healthcare organizations must follow.
Financial institutions also have a significant number of lessons to impart. Finance operates under strict regulations about consumer data, much like healthcare, so the fact that financial institutions have personalized consumer interactions is indicative of what’s possible for healthcare brands. By establishing points of trust, consumers will give you broader access rights to their data, to in turn personalize engagement.
Many payers and providers have siloed technologies by business function or channel and those siloed systems are a barrier in the modern age. Siloed data means fragmented customer journeys that are full of friction. Siloes are easier to put up quickly and in a controlled manner, but they complicate the goal of providing a frictionless customer experience.
By breaking down data silos, healthcare organizations can more readily understand the consumer’s preferences and history with the company. They can also integrate data from third-party providers, such as medical, health, or fitness mobile apps, which 32 percent of American consumers regularly use. This is why a customer data platform (CDP) can be powerful in a healthcare setting. CDPs are designed to provide a single point of control for data throughout the organization.
Unifying data through a customer data platform can inform richer messaging and campaigns for health-conscious consumers. Doing this kind of outreach effectively can lead to a better brand perception of healthcare payers and providers, which leads to higher customer satisfaction in the long run. If healthcare organizations break down silos and make data accessible with the right kind of solution, they empower everyone to make the patient or member experience more relevant.
Building a customer-centric healthcare organization may be a long-term goal, but there are ways to take step-by-step actions that achieve immediate results. For healthcare payers and providers, this could take the shape of increased self-service, greater educational materials about health and wellness, or even targeted messaging that reminds patients or members of needed upcoming appointments. Healthcare organizations that adopt this approach will benefit from higher customer satisfaction and nimbler operations.