Contributor: Exploring the Patient Experience as a Driver for Loyalty in the Digital Age

In this contributor piece, Gary Hamilton, CEO of InteliChart, the online patient engagement platform, explores how the digital evolution in health care can lead to quality care, convenience, and ongoing patient loyalty.

The individual consumer has made great strides in health care, with the health care industry’s focus shifting from appealing to the masses and larger markets to targeting individual patients. This is an inescapable trend, and health care providers are feeling the impact and adjusting accordingly. Patients have taken their health into their own hands and hold firm to the belief providers must meet their level of satisfaction.

Patients prefer a seamless experience that is highly personalized to their wants and needs. They now have the ability to instantly access online information to compare scores and ratings of health care organizations, providing greater visibility than ever before and making it possible to have more control over their health care. Therefore, retaining patients and attracting new ones will become a battlefield for many providers. Hence, patient loyalty will be a deciding factor in the success of many organizations.

Inevitably, the patient experience will drive people to their chosen providers, with consumers seeking an excellent patient experience matched with clinical quality. Health care organizations that offer both will witness greater patient loyalty and, therefore, higher returns. The simple fact is a physician must first establish a practice that offers quality care to then build patient loyalty.

The Digital Experience
The COVID-19 pandemic has rearranged much of our society and altered commerce, and as with many other sectors, the health care industry experienced rapid digitization

This digital transformation focused on, evolved, and ultimately improved the relationship between patient and provider. An NRC Health survey reported that nearly 62% of health care consumers would be looking to switch providers after the pandemic, indicating a likely turnover if certain patient criteria were not met. A health care organization that integrates an enhanced digital patient experience puts itself at an advantage over competitors.

To spur patient loyalty and help produce a positive experience, health care providers must view their patients as unique individuals and meet their needs through advanced digital features. Health care consumers seek the same value and convenience that has spread through such industries as retail and hospitality. Providers cannot just pick and choose which pieces of their practice to digitize; they need a fully integrated experience. By employing a holistic patient engagement platform, providers canempower their patients, appeal to their digital needs, and ultimately drive loyalty.

Health Care’s Digital Doorway
Patient portals are one such digital capability available to providers. These easily accessible health portals provide people with convenient, unlimited access to personal health information, allowing for greater visibility and transparency while appealing to digital preferences. Patients can easily navigate through health information and medical histories, examine possible treatments, and feel empowered that the data for making decisions rests at their fingertips. These digital front doors also help save time for both patients and providers, cutting out unnecessary communication while tracking day-to-day care in-between visits.

Portals alone, however, aren’t enough to meet the high expectations of today’s patients. To meet these standards, portals need to seamlessly integrate with other engagement solutions to provide a simple, unified experience for patients.

For example, intake solutions have also been an instrumental addition to the patient experience. Online check-in, securing a specific date and time, providing insurance information, and even listing a preferred pharmacy are features that have all become digitized and can be managed directly through patient portals. This helps eliminate lengthy times in waiting rooms, reduces cancellations, and alleviates administrative tasks, saving both time and money.

Evolving to Digital Ease and Value
A well-oiled patient engagement platform enables health care providers to circumvent the previously unavoidable barriers between them and their patients. A digital patient experience allows separate parties to work in tandem and builds the foundation for a positive experience. Once deemed a fractured process, the patient experience has evolved to a place of ease and value.

Driven by digital transformation, a focus on patient loyalty has taken shape and evolved as a long-term goal centered on a sustained commitment to patient needs. As the world comes out of the pandemic, health care providers must be ready to meet this demand, work to prevent turnover, and implement effective digital enhancements to laser in on care and convenience.