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Revolutionizing Patient Experience Through Healthcare Loyalty Programs

Improving loyalty in healthcare can help reduce costs and prevent poor health. We look at how to put the theory into practice.  

Healthcare in the U.S. is a complex and dynamic ecosystem. Regulatory hurdles, diverse patient needs, and cost/accessibility issues create significant challenges for payers and providers. Add in confounding new technology, and it's easy to imagine how all these factors might create poor patient experiences and lead to less-than-favorable health outcomes.

However, concepts like total cost of ownership, holistic wellness, and loyalty incentives can transform patients' healthcare experiences from transactional to meaningful. When these elements work within the existing healthcare framework, they have the potential to reduce costs and prevent poor health.

For example, we can look at preventative screenings like mammograms and colon cancer checks. These proactive measures can detect issues early and significantly reduce the cost of treatment at more advanced stages. Likewise, encouraging routine health maintenance based on individual profiles (i.e., age, gender, etc.) through rewards programs can catch health hiccups before they become real crises. Integrated approaches like these align the financial interests of healthcare providers and payers with patients' wellness goals, creating a win-win situation.

But the tricky part is putting theory into practice.


Building loyalty into patient care

Despite clear success in other industries, loyalty programs in healthcare must be more than just reward mechanisms. Above all else, healthcare marketing requires human understanding and empathy. Most often, when people interact with healthcare institutions, it’s because something is wrong. They need empathy and support, not shiny new badges or coupons for discounted products. Moreover, relationships between healthcare consumers and providers require higher levels of trust and support than almost any other industry. These dynamics presents unique opportunities for loyalty programs.

Providers who engage their patients throughout their healthcare journeys are better equipped to make real-time suggestions and provide additional services. Patients who trust their doctors are more likely to accept their recommendations and use their advice to make healthcare decisions. This relationship then creates a cycle of wellness that drives cost-effectiveness. A "frequent flyer" approach in which regular interactions with healthcare services result in rewards for patients can improve patient engagement and increase loyalty, thereby improving overall health.

The other players in this scenario are payers. They hold the purse strings and thus must play crucial roles in driving healthcare loyalty programs. Providers are responsible for keeping patients healthy, but payers can incentivize providers through outcomes. Those incentives can then be passed along to patients. This marketplace dynamic enhances patient care and creates a sustainable business model for healthcare institutions.

Reimagining a holistic healthcare experience encompassing cost reduction and wellness promotion within a trusted patient-provider relationship will take out-of-the-box thinking and bold leadership. However, it is the path toward a more empathetic, sustainable, and efficient healthcare system for everyone.


Improving loyalty by simplifying the user experience (UX)

New technology is always intimidating until you understand how to use it. In healthcare settings—i.e., where patients may be less able to use technology or less interested in relying on these solutions—ease of use is pivotal for the success of any loyalty program. Put another way, simple platforms are easier to use, so people use them more. Here are four ways healthcare organizations can simplify UX:

  • Integrate with existing digital platforms: This eliminates the need for users to download new applications and reduces digital clutter on their devices. This can significantly increase participation rates.

  • Prioritize user-friendliness: This means minimizing the hoops users must jump through to get started. The more complicated the process, the less likely users are to buy into the program and engage with the platform.

  • Create seamless UX: Use clear callouts and prompts, single sign-on capabilities, and auto-populate user information. Loyalty programs and healthcare services must feel interconnected and intentional.

  • Design a cohesive platform: Every aspect of the loyalty program—from initial access to redeeming rewards—should be a natural extension of existing healthcare services. The aim is to create an ecosystem where healthcare and rewards are two components of a single experience.

The key to making healthcare loyalty programs effective and engaging is reducing friction for patients and providers. Integrating these programs into existing platforms allows them to be seen as a single entity instead of an add-on headache.


Implementing a tried-and-true measurement strategy

The success of loyalty programs in any industry is determined by their ability to gather relevant data and generate usable insights. In healthcare, measuring loyalty means navigating a complex landscape of engagement metrics, user behaviors, and privacy laws and then using those data to make business decisions. Without a proper data analysis platform, this can be a mountainous task.

The first step to measuring the success of loyalty programs is identifying the key performance indicators (KPIs) that will generate the data and insights you seek. In healthcare, these metrics depend heavily on the patient's care niche and where the loyalty program fits within their journey.

Traditional marketing metrics used to measure engagement (i.e., email open and click-through rates, participation rates, customer satisfaction, etc.) and conversion (i.e., customer lifetime value, retention, churn, etc.) can apply to healthcare if they are tailored to align with the patient's larger healthcare goals. An omnichannel strategy that leverages text, email, social media, and brick-and-mortar interactions is often most effective in achieving seamless messaging and UX.

Healthcare providers face the added challenge of legally and ethically gathering, storing, and leveraging patient data. This challenge is compounded by guidance from regulatory bodies like the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA), the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and adherence to HIPAA (U.S.) and GDPR (Europe).

While these challenges sound daunting, they are no reason to give up on implementing a loyalty program in your healthcare organization. Gathering insights into patients' lifestyles, health habits, and wellness routines outside clinical settings allows healthcare providers to offer more personalized care. These data can also be used to customize educational materials and wellness recommendations, which can lead to healthier patients. Beyond this, these data can help healthcare institutions build more profound and meaningful patient connections.


Enhancing data management best practices

The value of loyalty programs in healthcare depends critically on the accuracy of patient databases and the effectiveness of customer segmentation. These strategies help institutions build patient-centric solutions, further developing trust between patients and providers and improving customer engagement. Here are three ways healthcare organizations can enhance data management:

  • Acknowledge database accuracy challenges: Healthcare organizations historically have struggled with maintaining accurate patient databases. This inaccuracy impacts everything from digitizing patient care models to effectively applying the patient care journey in marketing and clinical interactions. Poor data quality can also lead to impersonal patient experiences. Investing in a robust and secure data management platform is essential to improve accuracy.

  • Shift customer segmentation strategies: Healthcare marketing has often relied upon demographic targeting to drive customer segmentation. Shifting to a personalized, omnichannel experience can help organizations align their efforts with patient expectations. Marketing automation platforms compliant with HIPAA and GDPR can ensure timely and relevant messaging throughout the care journey.

  • Embrace AI: "Artificial intelligence" represents a robust suite of tools that can analyze large datasets to predict patient behaviors and identify potentially problematic conditions. These algorithms can also analyze speech patterns, facial expressions, and writing to diagnose mental health concerns. From an operational perspective, AI can optimize appointment scheduling and send automated reminders to reduce no-shows.

Whether we're talking about omnichannel UX or AI analyzing vast datasets to predict patient behavior, secure data management in the healthcare context is paramount. Ensuring compliance while pursuing personalization is a delicate yet essential aspect of modern healthcare marketing.


Final thoughts: The future of loyalty marketing in healthcare

Loyalty marketing in healthcare can potentially transform the industry's traditionally impersonal and scattered marketing tactics, provided they’re built on a foundation of support and empathy. Loyalty programs can also equip healthcare providers with crucial patient data, enhancing the personalization of care delivered in clinical settings.

But the rise of well-informed patients has created new expectations for providers and payers. Patients today want healthcare experiences that are digitally connected but also safe, transparent, and convenient. This shift underscores the need for loyalty programs offering more than just rewards but seamless integration with their healthcare journey and a human touch.

Concord is committed to ensuring loyalty programs engage patients and respect their rights and well-being. Let us show you how to build a strong healthcare loyalty program.

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