How Elective Healthcare Providers Need to Enhance the Patient Experience

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Patients recommend providers based on the quality of their complete experience, not the outcome of a procedure. 

By Lauren Hillery

This summer, a nationwide survey of recent and prospective patients found widespread dissatisfaction with key elements of the elective healthcare experience. The upshot: It will take more than great surgical outcomes to regain the $22 billion that the National Library of Medicine found providers lost in elective revenue during the first 12 months of the pandemic alone. Essentially, providers need to re-examine the patient journey from the endpoint.

Elective Healthcare Modern Patient Insights Report 2021found that 66% of patients had to delay elective procedures during the pandemic, and 39% of them don’t plan to reschedule. Part of the reason is that many patients are not satisfied they know what they’re getting into even after a consultation. Cost is a factor for 54% of patients considering elective procedures, and 56% did not understand all the costs involved. That’s critical when more than half are paying out of pocket for elective procedures, and 78% who defer do some for cost reasons. 

While patients report varying degrees of physical recovery based on type of procedure, overall only 39% are satisfied with the results. Yet it’s the quality of the complete experience – not just the quality of procedural outcome – that principally determines their feelings toward providers. Unfortunately, 56% of providers are not following up on the status of patients’ health beyond the days following surgery; 28% are only following up regarding billing. 

“It felt like they sold me on the procedure, and once it was done, they were finished with me,” said John, a 61-year-old cosmetic patient. Moreover, 74% of patients are sharing this kind of patient experience directly with others, while 33% post it on social media. 

The end of a patient’s experience really determines their satisfaction, and that’s when they’re telling friends and posting reviews about their experience. Prospective patients, in turn, are basing their perceptions of providers on this intelligence, which is largely from the 61% of patients who have seen little or no change from their procedure. 

Instead of doubling down on traditional marketing efforts, providers need to re-examine elective care as a continuum. The quality of a provider’s reputation – as shaped by media, social media and word of mouth – does more to determine who patients choose than any other factor. Fully 49% cite reputation as the reason for choosing a provider, versus 40% for staff qualifications 35% for insurance coverage, and 32% for proximity. 

While many healthcare marketers need to fine tune approaches to patient awareness and consideration, 90% are abdicating the advocacy phase – the word of mouth and social sharing that prospective patients rely on most of all. There are simple, straightforward ways for providers to close the gap. 

Mine your reviews. Patients write reviews to be heard, and bad reviews provide the best opportunities to improve service. Instead of just responding to the post, providers can apply it toward tuning up the patient experience in specific, meaningful ways. 

Ramp up patient education. Fully 59% of patients look for information about their procedure on a provider’s website and yet 44% felt the site didn’t answer their questions. Providers can give visitors all the options – including ones they don’t perform – and show what recovery really looks like six months to a year after surgery. Infographics, interactive quizzes, and visual timelines can make all the difference. 

Put people first. More than half (53%) of patients want to schedule, and 45% want to communicate, with providers over the phone. And the quality of their live interaction sets the tone for the relationship. So, the convenience of online interaction and scheduling needs to be balanced with a human touch. 

Connect prospects with patients. Prospective patients want to feel they’re not alone. Instead of simply providing testimonials, providers can connect prospects one-to-one with patients who have recovered from similar procedures. 

Follow up continuously. Providers’ greatest expansion opportunity lies in post-op engagement. Patients said they need to feel like they matter more to providers after they’ve been on the table; and that no amount of follow up is too much when it’s clearly aimed at making them feel cared for and supported. One oral surgeon takes this a step further by making calls to post-op patients every day so people are hearing from him personally. 

Survey details. LaneTerralever and Convince and Convert surveyed more than 600 patients across the country in June to understand the pandemic’s impact on their decision-making processes. Respondents were 50% male, 50% female, and represented all age groups with the largest being 35-64 (65%).

Lauren Hillery is Director of Brand Strategy at LaneTerralever, a healthcare marketing agency based in Phoenix, AZ.

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