Can retail and healthcare merge? Undoubtedly, that is the question that has become a hotbed topic in recent years. Healthcare is in a state of turmoil for both hospitals, clinics, and patients. High deductible plans, staggering out-of-pocket costs, value-based care in the form of government-sponsored plans, and industry competition has sent everyone scrambling to evolve. Nowadays, consumerism is overflowing into all health model businesses. Retail health can deliver quality care.
The Reality of Retail and the Health Care Industry
The National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC) has shown a very firm consumer response to retail clinics from both a care and economic slant. Patients want friendliness, the impression of quality/upscale care, and awareness. Decades ago, patients were willing to let doctors’ take the reins, but nowadays health consumerism clearly shows that patients want to be involved in their own health decisions not only in respect to their care, but also when it comes time to bill the insurance and pay the bill. The healthcare industry must be willing to ensure that the consumer experience occurs from start to finish. Patients now want a ‘retail experience.’ To be successful in today’s aggressive market, a healthcare provider must think like a retailer.
Digital Connections with Patients
E-commerce is taking the world by storm. Everyone shops online at major sites such as Amazon. In addition, prior to going out to a restaurant or employing a tradesman, people will check online reviews before deciding. Healthcare is no different. If a person is new to the area or considering changing physicians, they will use their smartphone or laptop to read reviews. Google stars matter not only for retailers but also for the health industry. Health systems that take the time to display their patient satisfaction and survey scores on their online provider profile automatically attain greater visibility in a Google search. Getting experience/satisfaction feedback to post online has become a necessity in today’s electronic dominated world where everyone turns to the web to decide.
Connecting with Patients Electronically
Patients want the ease of connecting with their health system electronically. They want to be able to log into their account to review their balance, charges, and other pertinent information. Online appointment scheduling, email marketing, and text appointment confirmations are just a few things that are important to modern patients and help in establishing long term loyalty.
Benefits of Offering Online Services
Here are a few perks of offering online services to patients and their families:
- Easy scheduling
- Clear pricing
- Allows patients to look up treatments, time frames, and options.
- Ability to ask questions without an appointment
- Improves patient experience
The Importance of Online Bill Pay
The convenience of online bill pay cannot be stressed enough. An automated POS collection strategy and patient financial portals are mandatory nowadays. In addition, such efficiency serves to decrease call volume. Handling the phones and inquiries takes up a great deal of office time and manpower but providing a detailed online website where a patient can view invoices, past payments, and indulge in bill pay frees up office staff.
Price Transparency in Healthcare
Retailers regularly compete over price. Healthcare providers must also step to the plate and vie for business. Patients want price transparency. They want to log online and check prices. Many hospitals and insurance companies are now providing electronic price charts. In large metropolitan areas, hospitals are having to compete for patients who are becoming price savvy and opt to compare prices before deciding about where to have surgery or receive treatment.
Healthcare Delivery and Scheduling
Retailers deliver, which is a service that buyers appreciate. Healthcare should also go beyond by offering house calls by LPNs or techs when necessary. Also, retailers cater their hours to meet the needs of their customers. Healthcare also must change its schedule because sometimes its difficult or impossible for a patient to get time off work. Staying open late, opening early, or offering weekend care is an ideal solution.
Business Marketing ROI
The healthcare industry must start using ROI metrics to market direct-to-consumer. You need to reach patients and then retain them through marketing campaigns. Remember, the acquisition cost of acquiring a new patient is always going to be greater than the retention rate of a current patient. This means that you must not only work at bringing in new patients, but you must also never lose sight of the value of your current patients. Retail businesses know these tricks. They run huge campaigns to bring in new clients, but they also they offer benefits to existing clientele.
Selling the Notion of Healthcare
Retailers also measure everything in ROI. They are in the business to sell. The entire process is easy. A retailer is not creating a brand but selling an item. Healthcare also must market the services that they offer by making the enter process not only comfortable but enjoyable. The importance of customer service cannot be overlooked.
You must always maintain your payer mix of private insurance versus Medicare and Medicaid. Commercial payers are 50 to 75 percent higher than Medicare and Medicaid’s reimbursement percentage. You will receive a far greater ROI if you target private insurance holders. It is imperative that you remain balanced to stay solvent and make profits. You should focus on optimizing your payer mix through targeted marketing strategies.
Creating a Target Market Database
Using targeted marketing to create customer segmentation and build prospect databases is a critical factor. Create a target market database using the following:
- Geography: Know which areas you want to reach.
- Demographics: Consider age, family composition, occupation, education, gender, and household income.
- Psychographics: Learn a potential patient’s behavior, general personality, and lifestyle. This will help you appeal to what interests them when creating a marketing strategy.
- Behavior: Consider the complete needs and wants of the patient.
You will use all these crucial factors to reach the would-be patients that you want to bring into your business. Please remember that this system is remarkably like those employed by a retail business with enormous success. They use flyers, U.S. mail, newspapers, email marketing, text messages, television, radio, and social media leveraging to build a diverse demographic database.
Providing Seasonal and Promotional Events
Retailers regularly welcome in the seasons with various events to reach out to would-be customers. Healthcare providers can also take advantage of promotional and seasonal events. During the height of flu season, providing a flu clinic or offering informational flyers is often appreciated. Seasonal healthcare tips via email, flyers, website, or regular mail also reach a wide demographic.
Telemedicine and Profitability
Retailers are faced with the cost of rent, inventory, and labor at their physical store locations. Healthcare also has the same dilemma. However, retailers now often combine their physical stores with online venders to maximize savings. Hospitals and clinics can also offer online services as opposed to those at a physical sight. The latest option is On-Demand Virtual Care or telemedicine to enhance profitability. Exam rooms are freed up and patients get to avoid an office visit. Medical care is extended far beyond the brick and mortar site. HIMSS Analytics foresees that 51 to 53 percent of hospitals in the U.S. will be offering telemedicine by 2020. This dramatic percentage is a direct reflection of consumer demand. Patients clamor for a virtual visit, that requires no travel time, minimal waiting, and can be booked according to the patient’s schedule. Healthcare providers must meet the demands of the patient and while doing so cut down on their physical space requirements, free up exam rooms, and reduce the physical load of an overflowing office. Telemedicine is a solution where everyone involved benefits.
Without a doubt, the healthcare system can learn from the retail sector. Offering patient engagement and maximizing their satisfaction level is imperative. In addition, the physical and virtual world must meet and co-exist to ensure future success for all parties. Healthcare must evolve to meet the changing world and better serve patients.
The Editorial Team at Healthcare Business Today is made up of skilled healthcare writers and experts, led by our managing editor, Daniel Casciato, who has over 25 years of experience in healthcare writing. Since 1998, we have produced compelling and informative content for numerous publications, establishing ourselves as a trusted resource for health and wellness information. We offer readers access to fresh health, medicine, science, and technology developments and the latest in patient news, emphasizing how these developments affect our lives.