Consumer engagement practices continue to evolve and redefine the marketplaces cross-industry, to the benefit of all. So how is healthcare doing?

Accenture research reveals healthcare is a conspicuous laggard when it comes to consumer service. Yet we know healthcare consumers are very eager to be engaged, and embrace channels that deepen this engagement.

Getting the healthcare consumer experience right requires greater alignment with what customers expect from other industries. It requires omni-channel provider interaction that emphasizes simplification and personalization. Finally, it must bring together the following five qualities healthcare consumers expect and increasingly demand.

1. Convenience – Healthcare consumers expect seamless, efficient access to care: via phone, text, video and multiple other channels.

In the ride-share industry, customers know that at a tap of a button they can hail a ride without taking time to contact a help line or reservation desk. No being put on hold or transferred—just tap and tada! They know the exact location of the car, its color driver details, how long the journey will take and via what route.

Healthcare consumers are coming to expect similarly easy access to care. Not only do they want the ability to consult with a doctor without leaving home, they want the ability to know where they can go for fast treatment in a minor emergency. For example, pulling up anticipated wait times at local clinics on a phone or web browser.

2. Reliability – Healthcare consumers want consistency of care across channels, real-time interaction with providers via portals and care coordination in and out of network.

In the consumer-packaged goods industry, consumers know that they’re going to get the same taste if, for example, soda comes in a bottle, a can or from a fountain.

Can hospitals deliver the same reliability? Are clinicians and staff being trained to deliver the same high level of service—consistently? As a patient, when I show up I want to know what to expect.

3. Transparency – Healthcare consumers want to know the cost of their care—prescriptions as well as treatments—before getting it.

When booking a flight, customers know upfront what they pay for, with all taxes, airport fees and luggage extras. The bill lays out all charges in an easy-to-understand manner. No surprises (except maybe the in-flight snack or beverage).

Can providers say the same for their patients? Are they making clear the costs across different channels, to mitigate if not eliminate sticker shock? Are they doing enough in the way of patient education? Are care options being explained in easy-to-understand language?

4. Quality – Healthcare consumers expect quality of care, which most providers are proactive about delivering. But provider focus is almost exclusively on individual treatment vs. holistic care.

In the hospitality industry, emphasis is placed on offering high-touch quality that stretches out across multiple consumer groups, incentivizing loyalty through reward programs and other encouragements. Quality and brand are consistent, regardless of where in the world that hotel is.

Providers can build beyond delivering high-quality patient outcomes by focusing on community outreach, on addressing the concerns of patient families and by encouraging employee self-improvement.

5. Proactivity – Healthcare consumers want providers using data in a manner that is not merely predictive, but prescriptive. They expect a relationship that is two-way, not just visit-to-visit.

In the e-commerce industry, customer behavior is finely modelled through careful analysis of purchasing patterns and search activities. A protocol is established and executed that recommends items and services. Better yet, it’s nice to get a reminder to order more laundry detergent.

Are providers offering intelligent, ongoing care to healthcare consumers before, during and after a visit? Are they adequately basing that care on a patient’s specific health status, history and socio-economic situation?

Some healthcare companies are already seeing wins with more personalized service. A more proactive approach to consumer engagement, employing all five of the above qualities consistently, will help providers build an ecosystem where patients become consumers for life.

Asher Perzigian

Managing Director – Strategy & Consulting, Clinical Operations Improvement Lead

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