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How to build loyalty into each patient experience

The pandemic affected how communities perceive healthcare organizations, leading to delayed care and a growing distrust of health systems.

During July’s Becker’s Hospital Review podcast, two prominent healthcare leaders discussed what health systems can do to build long-lasting patient loyalty. John Berg, Marketing Director and Assistant Vice President of the University of Florida Health, and Ryan Donohue, strategic advisor at NRC Health, believe healthcare organizations must restore patient trust and loyalty, starting with differentiating their brands in the marketplace.

“We’re seeing brands that were lumped together in consumers’ minds in our Market Insights data,” says Donohue. “Almost half of consumers said they heard the same messages from all the same health systems—we’re calling it the brand blur. We are seeing a lot less cynicism in data among consumers and patients, but there is work to do.”

Here are four strategies that can help you work toward boosting patient loyalty and satisfaction:

  1. Differentiate your healthcare brand. Healthcare systems need to go out independently, re-establish trust and loyalty, and differentiate themselves. Consumers are saying, “Who are you again? We’ve all been through a lot and need a fresh start, and you need to start from zero with me.”
  2. Reconsider how you engage with patients as you restore communication. UF Health adopted a brand voice that aimed to be that of a kind doctor. This approach ended up being a flop, Berg says, because the organization couldn’t successfully bring that communication style to community events. “Our message wasn’t resonating,” he says. Consider an update to your marketing and brand guidelines to ensure that you’re engaging with your local community on their terms.
  3. Engage so that patients think twice about delaying care. Donohue says health organizations have seen the result already of decreased trust, or at least dissonance, among consumers, patients, and would-be patients. “We know that when people don’t feel engaged with us, maybe they trust a little bit less or act a little less loyal,” he says. “Even that little difference can greatly impact someone second-guessing if they should come in for care or miss medical appointments.” Donohue adds that there are almost the same number of people deferring care now as in 2020. “I think it’s really important to create trust, to engage and build loyalty, but it also impacts the patient experience downstream,” he says. “I think we can’t deprioritize that.”
  4. Work to improve each stage of the patient journey. Human Understanding is at the forefront of how brands can help each patient feel unique and know that they are cared for, seen, and matter. Improving trust means caring about the whole journey—which starts in the parking lot and can end with follow-up materials helping a patient understand their diagnosis.

Don’t miss the whole episode of July’s Becker’s Hospital Review podcast.