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Digital experience helping healthcare providers grow market share

04 Dec 2019
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Article by Acquia Asia Pacific and Japan general manager Chris Gibbs

Providing customers with a personalised experience is no longer a big development for the marketing department or a ‘nice to have’ that enhances the core product.

Instead, it’s become a source of competitive advantage and a critical success factor.

For professionals, practices and healthcare chains operating in Australia’s $152 billion health services industry, driving positive engagement with clients and patients is becoming an increasing imperative.

Along with a range of other essential services, including education and utilities, healthcare provision has become highly commercialised in recent years.

Today, we see a plethora of private providers vying for the care and management of patients.

The rollout of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, the federal program launched in 2013 to fund costs associated with disability, has compelled many healthcare providers to review their modes of engagement with patients and potential patients.

The Scheme is designed to give choice and control to individuals with disabilities and that includes the ability to choose who’ll deliver their therapeutic intervention programs. 

Many of the program’s features are underpinned with digital interactions which can enable providers to see if they’re meeting expectations thereby providing an effective means of engaging with new and existing patients and retaining their ‘custom’ in the long term.

KPMG’s 2016 report How Much is Customer Experience Worth? noted the old adage ‘the customer is king’ had latterly become a reality.

With access to an abundance of options, buyers are spoilt for choice and sellers must vie for their attention.

This is certainly the case in some sub-sections of the health services sector.

Providing a superior patient experience can be the only way in which providers can distinguish themselves from others offering equivalent services.

Gauging customer experience in the digital arena

Gone is the era in which healthcare providers were precluded from advertising and appointments were made solely by telephone.

These days, patients’ interactions with providers are increasingly digitally driven.

Searching for practitioners and services, seeking further information and booking appointments can all be done digitally.

Real-life opportunities to garner feedback and gauge whether patients’ expectations are being met can be limited.

While it is possible for healthcare providers to get a handle on how they’re doing on the customer experience front using digital metrics, many misunderstand which metrics should be focused on? 

While clicks and likes on social media platform can provide insight, industry experience has shown they’re shallow measures. 

So, how should healthcare providers analyse, measure and understand how they’re doing from a customer experience perspective? Below are a few tips to consider.

Understanding visitors’ intent

Determining how to deliver an optimal patient experience to an individual starts with understanding their back story.

In the digital arena, that begins with capturing visitor intent data – information about the problem or need they’re looking to address or the reason they’ve sought out the practice.

It’s tough to deliver personalised, relevant information or tailored responses to potential queries and concerns in the absence of this information.

Examining the ways in which individuals engage with a healthcare provider’s online presence can give some insight into their motivations.

Some may have navigated their way via a social media post or news story while others may come from a seasonal spike in activity, such as the start of a school term or the end of the festive season.

The amount of time an individual spends engaging with a site is also a good indicator of whether the ‘value proposition’ on offer is going to resonate.

If potential patients are switching off quickly or navigating a site haphazardly, it may be a sign the online experience is poorly designed and is turning them off, or that the product offering – think appointment times, booking policy or choice of venue – needs to be reviewed.

Gauging satisfaction

Attracting patients is one thing; retaining them for the duration of their treatment is another.

Healthcare providers stand a better chance of doing the latter if they find ways to gauge satisfaction, not just by way of an occasional feedback survey, but regularly, and at every stage of the patient journey.

Engaged patients are more likely to become ‘brand evangelists’ who voluntarily spruik the healthcare experience they received, within their personal circles.

Positive online reviews and potentially a steady stream of referrals are reliable signs this is occurring.

Keeping tally of both makes sense for providers that are serious about doing digital experience well.

Engaged employees equal improved customer experience

It’s impossible to deliver excellent patient experiences without an engaged support team.

Employees who feel valued are more productive, more enthusiastic in their interactions with patients and more likely to stick around – all positives for any organisation that hopes to stand out by delivering continuity of service in a warm and friendly fashion.

Keeping the lines of communication open, inviting employees’ feedback and demonstrating their input is valued by acting on concerns and suggestions are all practices that will stand healthcare providers in good stead.

Time to act

In today’s crowded and competitive healthcare landscape, potential patients often have no shortage of options to choose from.

Healthcare providers that don’t strive to attract and retain a healthy pipeline of patients, by delivering satisfying customer experiences, may struggle to maintain patient numbers and viability.

Finding ways to measure the effectiveness of online efforts will help providers that are serious about doing so up their game, boost loyalty, and secure a sustainable future.