As we all know, healthcare can be an incredibly confusing industry, and the average individual may not even understand the fundamentals that go into their healthcare plan. In fact, a study done by UnitedHealthcare found that only 9% of Americans showed an understanding of these four terms: health plan premium, health plan deductible, out-of-pocket maximum, and co-insurance. With such low comprehension, how do patients even go about choosing a hospital and what factors cause someone to pick one hospital over another? To fully understand this part of the patient’s journey, you must focus on the fact that before they become patients, people are consumers.

Over the last decade, techniques to gain the attention and loyalty of a consumer have changed drastically. Due to constant innovation and rising expectations, companies, including those in healthcare, must build strong, digital gateways in order to attract consumers. And yes, most, if not all health organizations, have created a website, but is that all it takes? Nope. Leading companies have set the bar high, meaning it’s not just about having a website. Companies need to ensure their digital outputs provide convenience and ease of access to anyone who may seek it out. It’s important to design an effortless, frictionless experience that will make consumers want to choose you, so you have the opportunity to build a lifetime relationship.

To fully understand how to take advantage of your digital outputs, you must first understand what causes consumers to search for a hospital to begin with. The truth is that unless there is a specific need, healthcare is often out of sight and out of mind. So, consumers most often look for healthcare providers at times where serious attention is needed. This is the moment when a consumer’s emotions and psychological needs are kicking in and lead them to pick up the phone, search the web, or drive onsite to the nearest location. Organizations must look deeper into the journey of their consumers. The emergency department, urgent care, and primary care may be the first points of contact but are not the first points in the customer journey. A quote by Sara Heath, Site Editor at PatientEngagementHIT.com, represents this concept perfectly. She states, “Patient care access issues aren’t about getting a foot in the door. Instead, it’s about getting a foot in the right door.” To help your consumers get to the right door, your organization must connect with the consumer’s decision-making process and custom fit your front door experience to meet their needs.

As previously mentioned, in order to capture the attention of a consumer, you must captivate them with simplistic and convenient digital options. With the introduction of convenience like Amazon.com, Netflix and food delivery like Postmates, the need for instant gratification has never been greater. In order to deliver on these expectations, your organization must offer all possible information a consumer might need at any given time. This can consist of services, wait times, online appointments, and reviews, price transparency, and more.

There are countless ways to solve for these issues, but the best way to determine what your consumers and patients need is simple… Ask them. And, to do it right, it’s just about digging deep with your consumers and identifying their needs and motivations, and determining what your front door strategy is doing to enable or constrain those needs. No one will know what your organization lacks better than the people who are actually a part of your customer journey. Only after you’ve asked consumers what the issues are, can you begin to build reliable solutions for them.

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