Patients Are Losing Patience, So Can Enhancing Access to Care Improve Patient Loyalty?

In the evolving healthcare landscape, the adage “Trust is earned, not given,” has never been more relevant. This is especially true regarding the relationship between patients and primary care physicians (PCPs). Alongside the rise of technology, innovative partnerships like that between Samsung Health and b.well are creating new networks of care. Furthermore, they are improving the overall access to services. These types of partnerships hold the promise of bridging the widening gap between providers and patients – creating lasting patient loyalty.

The New Dynamics of Trust and Consumer Expectations in Primary Care

The significance of longstanding relationships between patients and their PCPs cannot be overstated. According to a Stanford paper, these enduring relationships lead to a more efficient provision of primary care. In particular, the paper emphasizes the importance of longitudinal information in these relationships.

However, the healthcare landscape is also experiencing shifts that challenge these traditional relationships. Issues like volatile insurance networks, non-compete agreements, and a potential surge in PCP retirements mean that the patient-PCP relationship can be unexpectedly severed. This puts a premium on adaptability and resilience in healthcare relationships, features that are especially relevant in today’s consumer-centric world.

Patients today expect much more than just competent medical care; they also demand convenience, personalization, and adaptability to technological advancements. Thus, earning and maintaining patient trust now requires meeting, or even exceeding, these elevated expectations. 

As the Stanford paper also points out, policy reforms increasingly focus on the patient-PCP relationship, recognizing its pivotal role in healthcare outcomes. This suggests that providers must leverage all tools at their disposal. This includes technological solutions and innovative hybrid care models, to meet consumer expectations and sustain trust.

Emerging initiatives, such as Dollar General’s partnership with DocGo or Samsung Health’s alliance with b.well, signify how consumer expectations are shaping the future of healthcare. These innovative approaches are not threats. Instead, they are opportunities for traditional healthcare providers to modernize and meet consumer demands, thereby strengthening trust and loyalty.

Fostering Patient Loyalty through Data Sharing

Technology is crucial in facilitating the secure and efficient sharing of patient data among healthcare providers. By leveraging the industry’s latest interoperability standards and consumer consent, organizations can combine core system data with third-party sources. This creates a comprehensive view of patients’ health data. This leads to consistent and well-coordinated care based on up-to-date information, ultimately enhancing patient loyalty and the quality of care.

There is a divine intersection between interpersonal relationships and information technology in the context of healthcare. When a PCP can seamlessly share vital information with other providers, patients can place their trust in their PCP. Thereby creating a cornerstone of their lifelong health journey. For a patient, it can be incredibly frustrating to face any type of delay in care. Some of these delays can even come from the lack of medical record sharing.

For instance, if a patient gets blood tests done by their PCP, they should be able to easily share those results with anyone the consumer consents to have access to their data, instantly. Oftentimes patients are faced with having to jump through hoops with multiple phone calls to do so. Some even have to have the test reordered by an additional provider. Effective healthcare relationships fundamentally rely on the exchange of information. And, information technology plays a pivotal role in managing this information effectively and efficiently with the patient’s best interest at heart. 

Starting at Convenience, But Layering Personalization to Make an Impact

While mobile health apps, often referred to as digital front doors, have undeniably increased patient engagement, their impact has largely been transactional in nature. They provide an efficient way to schedule appointments, set medication reminders, and even communicate with healthcare providers. However, these functionalities, though important, focus on individual transactions rather than cultivating a deeper, more meaningful relationship between healthcare providers and patients. While they grant patients easier access to their medical records and communication methods with their healthcare teams, the interaction remains largely mechanistic. 

These digital front doors, beneficial for operational efficiency and immediate patient management, lack the intricacies necessary for nurturing enduring patient loyalty and holistic care. They act as a valuable starting point in delivering convenience but should be part of a larger, more comprehensive strategy to build long-lasting, trust-based relationships between patients and their primary care providers.

Convenience, however, has its merits. It not only reduces wait times but also contributes to overall cost savings. Features like online appointment scheduling and virtual check-ins have significantly enhanced the patient experience. In a fast-paced world, these time-saving measures are invaluable. Moreover, cost-effective alternatives like telehealth appointments and home-based health monitoring further reduce the need for frequent, costly hospital visits.

According to a survey of 2,000 healthcare consumers, 70% expressed their willingness to switch to a provider offering a more tech-savvy, convenient healthcare experience. This data underscores the critical role that convenience plays in patient loyalty and the overall quality of care.

Cultivating Activation & Loyalty

Patient engagement is a pivotal aspect of modern healthcare. In addition, technology plays a vital role in ensuring that patients are actively involved in their care. But how do healthcare providers engage patients if they don’t truly know them?

Enter personalized healthcare. Personalized healthcare means tailoring treatment and care plans to the unique needs of each patient. This is achieved by leveraging comprehensive patient data and sophisticated machine-learning intelligence engines. For instance, a patient with diabetes may receive specific dietary and exercise recommendations based on their individual medical history, genetics, lifestyle information, and recorded preferences. This level of personalized care not only makes treatment more effective but also fosters a stronger patient-PCP relationship.

By utilizing communication tools, personalized care plans improve patient engagement. Sending automated communication via phone, text, and email, conducting ongoing outreach in-between visits with recommended next best actions, or following up post-visit with patient feedback surveys all contribute to patients feeling more cared for as an individual. When patients feel that their healthcare is tailored to their specific needs, they are more likely to actively participate in their treatment plans, adhere to medications, and follow through with appointments. This, in turn, leads to better health outcomes and higher patient loyalty and satisfaction. 

Elevating the personalization of healthcare services offers extensive advantages to both patients and healthcare providers. For example, increasing customer retention by as little as 5 percent can lead to a substantial profit increase, ranging from 25 to 95 percent. For healthcare systems committed to improving patient retention, technology emerges as a powerful tool. It facilitates a personalized patient experience tailored to individual needs and preferences.

But patient loyalty is more than just data and gadgets. It’s about emphasizing the human connection, the relationship between the patient and their healthcare system. The stronger this connection, the better their overall experience. Patients want to feel heard, understood, and respected. It’s this trust and understanding that underpins the satisfaction and loyalty they have toward their healthcare providers. By harnessing the potential of these tools, healthcare systems can ensure that patient engagement is not just a goal. It’s a reality that positively impacts the quality of care provided.

Bridging the Patient Loyalty Gap with b.well Connected Health 

In summary, technology is a pivotal driver behind the enhancement of patient loyalty to their PCPs, and this strengthened loyalty translates into improved healthcare outcomes. Patients with enduring relationships with their PCPs are more likely to actively engage in their treatment plans. 

Technology plays a fundamental role in fostering patient loyalty through several key avenues. Personalization is key, as technology allows healthcare providers to customize treatment plans based on individual patient needs. This personalized approach enhances the effectiveness of treatment and forges stronger patient-provider relationships, leading to higher satisfaction levels. 

Technology’s role in improving patient loyalty is evident, as it enhances personalization, convenience, communication, patient engagement, and data sharing. By harnessing the power of technology, healthcare providers can ultimately boost patient outcomes, satisfaction, and loyalty, underscoring the importance of robust patient-PCP relationships within the healthcare system. b.well Connected Health helps bridge the gap between patient loyalty and lack of primary care by redefining how patients interact with their health data. Providing the tools that prioritize effective communication between multiple platforms, secure data sharing, informed consent, personalized messaging, and hosting a longitudinal health record, healthcare providers can start not just treating their patients, but building a lifelong relationship that not only provides patient retention, it improves patient quality of care. We invite you to connect with us to learn more about how b.well can improve your approach to healthcare.

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