For all of the recent focus on performance and quality measures, a recent headline caught my attention: Medicare Beneficiaries Seldom Choose The Highest Quality Provider During Hospital Discharge Planning.
A recent MedPAC report found that following a hospital discharge, Medicare beneficiaries seldom choose the provider organization in their area with the highest quality ratings. For home health services, 94% selected a home health service with lower quality scores on the Medicare’s Home Health Compare. When selecting a skilled nursing facility, 85.3% selected a facility with lower quality scores in on Medicare’s Nursing Home Compare.
So, what gives? Obviously, Medicare’s Nursing Home Compare and Home Health Compare data has minimal impact in helping beneficiaries to choose providers with the highest clinical quality. But is this true across the board? Do consumers generally ignore comparative quality data and select provider organizations based on other factors? Unfortunately, the answer is “yes.” A recent panel for a segment on The Business of Healthcare on Wharton’s Business Radio discussed their findings that consumers “choices are being made by word of mouth and by who you know – despite this plethora of information available” (see How Consumers Are Choosing Their Health Care Providers).
This situation has big implications for consumer marketing by provider organizations. Quality scores are important, but it’s clear that consumers are making decisions on other factors. The research, and our experience, find that these factors include insurance coverage, brand awareness, positive brand perception, access and convenience, and consumer experience.
Insurance coverage—When it comes to health care, consumers are very price sensitive. While consumers don’t always select health coverage based on “choice”, they often select provider organizations based on network coverage. About 72% of consumers note that they chose their physician based on whether they accepted their insurance (see 6 of 10 People Choose a Doctor Based on a Convenient Location). It’s important for provider organization websites to be clear about what insurance coverage they accept—and (in the very near future) what their rates are.
Brand awareness and positive brand perception—Consumers make decisions based on what they know and who they recognize. If they don’t know that you are the top-rated provider organization in your area (or that you exist), this won’t factor into their decision. To make sure your targeted consumers are finding you, start with a digital customer journey map. This is a flowchart that shows all the different stages your target customers go through as they experience your brand online—from awareness to consideration to decision. For more on building your brand, check out these resources:
- 5 Keys For Optimizing Your Online Brand
- Succeeding In The Online Ratings Game – First, Know The Score
- How Effective Is Your Online Marketing Strategy?
Access and convenience—There is always the chance that the consumer knows about your organization and your services, but simply finds it inconvenient to work with your organization. Can they get immediate service? Are the office hours convenient? Are the locations easy to access? Does your staff answer the phone promptly every time it rings? Do you have a system for answering calls outside of normal business hours? For more on access issue, check out:
- Will Good, Cheap & Easy Win the Day?
- How Far Are You Willing To Go To Improve Consumer Satisfaction?
- You Can’t Ignore Those Online Reviews – But What Can You Do?
Customer experience—While access and convenience are a big part of the consumer experience, it is still only a part. There is a lot more that goes into making the experience with your organization, its services, and your service team a positive one. For many consumers (and their families) their interaction with the health and human service field is under stressful conditions. Having staff that are trained in best practices for managing these interactions is key. There is some push back from health care professionals about the use of consumer experience in provider organization evaluation selection—but recent research finds that organizations with the best consumer experience are most often organizations with above average clinical quality (see Delivering Value by Focusing on Patient Experience). For more on consumer experience, check out these resources:
- Making Consumer-Centricity A Reality For Medicaid Consumers With Complex Needs
- You Say Subscription-Based Health Care, I Hear Customer Service
- What Do Your Consumers Want?
As the competition for consumers gets more intense, understanding how consumers choose health care provider organizations is critical. It’s not enough to just be open.
Looking for a better connection with consumers? Join me on October 22 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for The 2018 OPEN MINDS Consumer Engagement Technologies Summit, featuring Bruce L. Bird, Ph.D., President & Chief Executive Officer, Vinfen, and Michelle A. Blackmore, Ph.D., Project Director, Montefiore Medical Center.