Patient Experience Leakage: Patient “keep-age” the ultimate antidote

21 July, 2016

[Part 3 of our 3-Part Series: Re-defining and Re-addressing Patient Leakage]

There’s a philosophical sales paradigm in healthcare today which basically espouses that getting a patient in the door equals income, end of story. What happens after a patient is in the door, as long as he or she wasn’t pointed in the direction of a competitor, is an afterthought. This is why patient leakage has typically been a mere synonym for doctor referrals.

A philosophical shift is critical because there is a direct, causal relationship between the lack of care in the patient experience, which includes what happens to a patient during-visit and post-visit, and patient leakage. Altering philosophy to a more long-term view of each patient as a potential loyal customer will not only prevent patient leakage, but will also generate more income for providers and doctors than the short-term goal of just getting more patients in the door.

If providers and doctors saw patients as long-term loyal customers, a momentary leak wouldn’t be considered as significant of a loss as it is now. A patient may “leak” to see a particular specialist, but he or she will be back. Why? Because of their incredible patient experience, of course.

Patients know their patient experience is poor, but why are they the only ones?

According to a recent GE study, 75% of frequent healthcare consumers are frustrated with their patient experience. This is a devastating truth that should wake up the healthcare industry, but it likely won’t wake up many. According to the same study, 63% of providers believe they are delivering a quality patient experience, but only 40% of patients agree. That’s a massive 23% gap in perception!

The problem is that if patients are treated like cattle, they may act like cattle (doctor referral leakage), and they may feel like cattle (patient experience leakage).

Evidence of the lack of care in the patient experience is manifold. In the during-visit phase, patients often have to recite the reason they’re in the office four or five times. The amount of time patients spend with their physicians is often laughably short. How can the cattle feelings not begin to set in?

In the post-visit phase, the lack of care is typically cemented by an almost complete lack of follow-up care. If a patient has been referred, often the new physician is just as clueless as to why the patient is there as the physician who referred him or her.

Improving the patient experience will generate more revenue & acquire more patients

Providers’ and doctors’ sales funnels are heavily tilted towards acquiring patients, instead of patient keep-age. This is a catch-22 because, while it delivers solid income, acquiring patients is actually the most expensive part of the patient experience investment. This bottom-line-focused philosophy sees only the dollar signs new patients bring once they cross the hospital threshold. The irony is that if they tilted that sales funnel towards improving their current customer base’s patient experience, they would actually generate more revenue, and more new patients would pour through their doors.

If one’s job is done once a patient is merely “through the door,” then it makes sense that the patient experience with the staff, including doctors and nurses, would be a low-touch, low-engagement affair. A highly engaged staff, however, that provides a high-touch, high-engagement patient experience would result in a 51% increase in inpatient referrals, and the average patient revenue per physician would increase $460k annually.

Not only would patients leak less, but these providers and doctors would become like buckets catching other hospital systems’ patient leakage.

Back to the basics: The patient experience that provides the best care will inspire patient “keep-age”

The current patient experience that frustrates modern patients is one that is, not only low-touch, but also hinges solely on solving pain points. This is a physician helping a patient get to the bottom of his or her health trigger. Once a given health trigger is healed, prescribed against, or referred for… it’s on to the next patient that has come in the door.

Providers and doctors need to go beyond this reactive mode of operation, and become proactive “health designers” who develop extensive care plans to actually improve their patients’ health, and ultimately, their lives.

In our last post, we used the analogy of a consumer going to a mall and buying a lot of beautiful pieces and furnishings to upgrade his or her home aesthetically. When the moving truck unloads at the consumer’s home, that consumer will find he or she really needs an interior designer, a professional expert, to put all the pieces together to actually improve the home. This is what providers and doctors need to be because this is what patients need and are demanding.

If a PCP offered an extensive care plan that goes beyond addressing pain points and projects into a patient’s future, including PCP follow-ups and health and lifestyle recommendations tailored to that particular patient (not just: eat less red meats and exercise more), that patient’s experience would be one of surprise and delight. This would ultimately build patients’ trust in the brand, inspire loyalty, and open that PCP up to new worlds of new patient acquisitions.

Who would even think of leaking when they have a patient experience like that?

Enjoyed the final post in our Patient Leakage series? Download the entire series in PDF format to read from the beginning!