Care comes first but patient navigation and access are often overlooked

It’s no surprise that quality of care delivery is the characteristic of a hospital or health system that matters most to healthcare consumers. It’s therefore the key ingredient for a provider organization seeking to build or maintain a strong brand in the market. Yet health systems tend to overlook the two brand-building ingredients that consumers say are next in importance: Provider finding and patient scheduling. Together, the pair are how a health system’s case for attracting and retaining patients is made.

Analysis of market data tells us that a health system with a strong brand has similarly positive reputations for both its physicians and the organization itself. In other words, a balanced brand is a healthy brand.

The good news I give providers: You don’t have to boil the ocean to get your brand right. Your health system has spent years honing the quality of care delivery. Don’t allow your overall reputation to get dragged down by easily identified systemic issues.

We tracked overall Net Promoter Scores1 across ten touchpoints we identified as crucial to provider brand building. Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a commonly used customer metric. It is based on the premise that consumers’ willingness to recommend an organization indicates future consumer behaviors that drive future revenue growth and value for the organization. Patients rank care delivery as most important—90 percent more so than the other touchpoints. If patients feel that the facility or office experience and/or interactions with providers aren’t exceptional, that is likely to significantly drag down the health system’s reputation.

Next in importance are provider finding and patient scheduling, which consumers think are 35 percent more important than the remaining seven touchpoints. But when it comes to these areas, many health systems are missing rich opportunities for brand building and strengthening.

Providers need to ask: Are patients able to easily understand and navigate the system? Are they able to easily find the right provider, one that fits their need and suits their ailment? Can they quickly make appointments when and where it works for them? Is care provided in the way the patient wants?

Digital enablement is a key component, and we know that today’s patients are comfortable using online tools. But providers must be cognizant that they have a whole internal ecosystem to address. For example, patient self-scheduling is a process accessible via digital channels. But if the overall system is not redesigned to offer greater convenience, streamlining the means for scheduling alone won’t be enough. Not if the tool can only schedule select appointments and the first available appointment is 90 days out.

Improving consumer loyalty requires more than a digital makeover. It mandates a fundamental reworking of core aspects of the care model and ecosystem. This can include everything from full integration of digital channels with the contact center/front office to designing new location-agnostic care services.

To build a brand that resonates in a crowded market of high-value caregivers, providers need to focus on the consumer journey across the system. Setting up a digital front door that meets patients’ high expectations offers an excellent means for doing just that.

1Net Promoter, Net Promoter System, Net Promoter Score, NPS and the NPS-related emoticons are registered trademarks of Bain & Company, Inc., Fred Reichheld and Satmetrix Systems, Inc.

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