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Loyalty Program Develops Strong Relationships with Patients at BayCare Health System

This article was also published on my.shsmd.org.

Today’s consumers expect the same transparency, convenience and personalization from their health care providers that they receive from retailers and banks. And that’s not happening, according to Brian Wynne, vice president and general manager of NRC Health in Lincoln, Nebraska, and Edward Rafalski, Ph.D., senior vice president and chief strategy and marketing officer of BayCare Health System in Clearwater, Florida.

NRC Health’s own market research of more than 300,000 health care consumers from the 200 largest markets in the United States shows that 40 percent of respondents say they have no loyalty to one hospital or health system, while 80 percent would switch doctors or health systems just for convenience sake.

“This represents a significant threat to any health system’s market share if our customers are looking for alternative options,” Wynne said. “The organizations that solve the loyalty issue will dramatically increase their market share. And that translates directly into revenue, given that the average lifetime value of an individual to a health care system is $1.4 million and that consumers with a consistent relationship with their primary care physician cost the system one-third less than those without such loyalty. Taken together, increasing retention by just 5 percent could increase revenue between 15 and 95 percent,” Wynne added.

Loyalty Defined

Wynne and Rafalski define loyalty as “a behavioral tendency where consumers favor one brand’s products over its competitors.” To earn loyalists, a brand must consistently answer yes to the following questions, according to researcher and loyalty expert James Kane:

  • Does your health system make my life safer?
  • Does it make my life easier?
  • Does it make my life better?

Most health systems fail in all three because health care is inconvenient and impersonal, said Wynne. “Many still treat their community as a monolithic entity, rather than segmenting the market as other customer-facing companies do,” he noted. “It’s important to understand the differences in what matters to Generation Z, millennials, Generation X, baby boomers and traditionalists. It’s also important to use consumer data to understand customer motivation, sensitivity and preferences.”

Creating a Loyalty Program

Rafalski was charged with creating a loyalty program at BayCare when the system launched its Medicare Advantage product in October 2018. “We became an insurance company and we needed to maintain loyalty and reduce churn,” he said. At the same time, it was vital to encourage members to participate more in their own health. “We needed to get them to do the right thing, at the right time, at the right cost,” he said.

The result was BayCare EasyPass™. The program’s goals were to elevate awareness of the BayCare brand; to strengthen connections between the entire system of hospitals, facilities and health care professionals; to generate “stickiness” for BayCare’s health and wellness services; and to create a patient-centric culture.

Today, EasyPass™ members can access online scheduling and price comparison services and get email and text appointment reminders. They also receive a wellness newsletter.

EasyPass™ is also designed to improve participant health by keeping patients in a “closed loop” within the health system. “That way we can help them monitor their own health and keep them on track to fully meet their health care needs and goals,” Rafalski said. In addition, participants gain access to new, value-added services before they are available to other BayCare patients.

For other health care organizations considering starting a loyalty program, Rafalski highlights several lessons from BayCare’s experience:

  1. Choose the right partner.
  2. Be patient, because it takes longer than you might expect.
  3. Get the right people together. That means marketing, data analytics and information technology.
  4. Secure early buy-in from the clinical leadership.
  5. Identify and track key performance indicators.
  6. Start small and grow slowly.

To learn more…

SHSMD members, read the article “Building Loyalty Is Key in New Age of Consumerism” published in a recent issue of Spectrum, SHSMD’s newsletter, with monthly articles on hospital marketing, strategy, communications and business development.

Nonmembers, for more content like this on health care consumerism, building patient loyalty and using technology to make hospitals more patient-centered,join SHSMD!

This blog features interviews with:

Edward Rafalski, Ph.D. 
Senior Vice President and Chief Strategy and Marketing Officer
BayCare Health System
Clearwater, Florida

Brian Wynne
Vice President
NRC Health
Lincoln, Nebraska