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Health experience: The key to improving patient loyalty

3-minute read

In brief

  • Healthcare providers and healthcare payers struggle to respond fast to people’s health experience expectations—and patient loyalty is at stake.
  • Our payer provider benchmark surveys of 21,000 US consumers reveal where healthcare organizations should invest to improve health experience.
  • People are holding healthcare providers and healthcare payers more accountable, and experience factors are driving an upswing in switching.
  • Our payer provider benchmark surveys reveal that access, ease of doing business, digital engagement and trust matter the most to people.

Humanizing healthcare to meet evolving expectations

Healthcare is more experiential and less transactional today. Healthcare providers’ growth and patient loyalty is increasingly tied to experience. And healthcare payers are getting disrupted by players with digital-native business models centered on delivering breakthrough health experiences.

People are switching healthcare providers

The research revealed what’s driving switching away from both healthcare payers and providers. For both, it comes down to experience.

For healthcare providers. Nearly 80% of provider switchers cite ease of navigation factors as the reason for leaving. These factors include difficulties in doing business, bad experiences with administrative staff and inadequate digital solutions. The rate of switching for ease of navigation factors is nearly double that of even a poor clinical experience.

For healthcare payers. 49% of payer switchers say that experience factors made them leave. These factors include inaccurate or inconsistent information, unanswered questions, poor experiences using digital tools, poor customer service and discomfort with how payers used their personal data. After experience, people are most likely to switch payers because of benefits and coverage.


selected a new provider in 2021—up from 26% in 2017.


switched providers because they were unhappy—up from 18% in 2017.

How to humanize health experiences

Our research reveals that to deliver the health experiences that people expect today—and to improve patient loyalty—there are four factors to focus on across every part of the care journey.


An overwhelming 71% of people cite access as a top factor in selecting a new healthcare provider. They value things like appointment availability, convenience, customer service and the ability to connect to their provider through their preferred channels. Although access factors far outweigh all others, a trusted referral source is also important. Just over half of respondents (53%) consider it to be a top factor in their selection of a new provider.

One of healthcare payers’ primary roles is enabling people to access the quality care they need. People want that to happen with the right information, minimal hassle and flexibility. Payers’ effectiveness across these factors has a significant impact on people’s perception of their health experiences, and as such, on their likelihood of staying.

Ease of doing business

People who find their healthcare providers very easy to work with are nine times more likely to stay than those who find them difficult to work with—and three times more likely to stay than if their provider is even somewhat easy to work with. Similarly, people are four times more likely to stay with healthcare payers they find are very easy to work with compared to those that find their payer difficult.

Digital engagement

Digital engagement is a strong predictor of loyalty. Put simply, people who are highly digitally engaged are significantly more loyal. Nearly 80% of highly digital people are likely to stay with their healthcare providers. When it comes to how highly digitally engaged people interact with healthcare payers, they are more likely to stay (69% versus 55%) and more likely to consider their payer very easy to do business with (74% vs 50%).


Trusters are five times more likely to stay with their healthcare providers than all other categories, and they are almost seven times more likely to stay than those who don’t trust their providers at all. Similarly, trusters are four times more likely to stay with healthcare payers than distrusters.

Healthcare organizations want to make meaningful progress in responding to people’s rapidly evolving health experience expectations. After all, loyalty and engagement hang in the balance.

Meeting experience expectations: Where to start—what to take on

With budget constraints and resource limitations, a business case and roadmap will help leaders establish their experience north star. Here are the fundamentals for success:

1. Build a strong foundation. Enable ease of access and navigation, engagement across channels and personalized interactions.

2. Understand your customer. Develop meaningful customer insights to create life-centric experiences that reflect the needs of consumers as real people.

3. Focus on the connected journey. Create an omnichannel experience that seamlessly powers the whole journey.

4. Balance the human + machine equation. Embrace digital as the means to the end of humanizing health experiences and freeing up human capacity.


Sarah Sinha

Managing Director – Health, Provider Customer Engagement Lead

Loren McCaghy

Director – Consulting, Health, Consumer Engagement and Product Insight