It has become an article of faith in the business world that customer loyalty and retention has immense value. Maximizing the customer experience to create that loyalty is viewed as critical. A new PWC report looks at how health care companies need to learn from the experience of other industries and prepare for the customer “revolution” in health care. (PWC Report) PWC drew on its regular survey of consumers across industries, including health care. In general, health care patients report being less satisfied than customers in many other industries. They want many of the same things, such as friendliness, speed and convenience and they tend to judge quality more from these characteristics than from the actual care outcomes, as long as those aren’t disastrous. Some factors which continue to drive greater patient expectations and focus are more cost-sharing, value-based purchasing, which relies in part on patient experience scores, greater information availability for patients and the increasing importance of time for consumers in general.
In addition to retaining patients, a good experience may also be important to spur the consumer to do marketing for the health care company by referring other people to it or sharing the good experience. The biggest percent of health care consumers rank personal experience as the most important factor in making a purchase decision, and only 8% say price is the most important, which is very different from most industries and likely reflects the omnipresence of third-party payment. Younger consumers are more interested in new ways of interacting with the health care system, like internet visits or retail clinics. From providers, consumers value multiple services in one location and availability of information. From insurers they value broad provider networks and fast claims processing. Staff interactions are critical, since that is the most direct experience most patients have. Investing in staff training can have significant paybacks. All this consumer focus, however, comes with a price, and in an era where lower spending is demanded, it is unclear how providers and payers will juggle conflicting demands.