Commentary

Healthcare Adopting Survey Cues From The Retail World

The engagement best friend for marketers is a robust feedback loop from customers. This is commonplace in industries like retail and commerce. Healthcare, however, is playing catchup in many ways with consumer engagement.   

The advent of the Affordable Care Act placed a high degree of emphasis on patient satisfaction as the measure of quality service raised in conjunction with federal reimbursement policy. Further, as patients became responsible for more of the financial burden driven by high deductible insurance plans, they began to expect more from their medical experience just as they do in other consumer situations. Insight into the drivers of satisfaction is quickly becoming a competitive advantage. Consumer feedback in healthcare is of vital importance, in the clinical encounter and increasingly beyond.

Mounting evidence shows patients happy with their financial experience pay sooner. In a longitudinal study by Connance, satisfied patients are 74% more likely to pay their bills in full versus 33% of their less satisfied counterparts. Further, happy ones not only pay their bills in full  but are 95% are more likely to remain loyal to a given provider versus only 58% of their counterparts who had a bad financial experience.

The standard approach for patient feedback, an HCAHPS (Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems) paper survey, is mailed after the patient’s medical statement is ready for payment, usually one to three months after the visit. Many consumers find this disconnected and confusing, depressing the response rate. By comparison, retailers like the Gap or Home Depot would have surveyed the consumer as a part of the checkout process, increasing timeliness, accuracy, and response.

Innovative healthcare providers are discovering that payments is a common denominator for patients and an opportunity to rethink the feedback loop. Gundersen Health System is an example of a provider taking real-time survey results by the reigns. Gundersen, a five-hospital integrated health network with over 1 million encounters across Wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota, deployed patient surveys on its payment experience and captured feedback from over 20% of patients who paid online, or approximately four to five times the average response rate.

Laurie Hurwitz, executive director of revenue cycle at Gundersen, notes: “Based on their survey responses, patients responded well to the system, but perhaps even more significant was our ability to quickly mine comments and quickly correct any patient identified issues.”

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