Patients are in the driver's seat — Is your organization their healthcare destination of choice?

In 2022, patients are in the driver's seat. The pandemic accelerated existing consumer trends and patients are no longer willing to accept the status quo. As consumers become aware of other healthcare options, they become a flight risk for health systems. 

At a November executive roundtable sponsored by MDVIP at the Becker's 10th Annual CEO + CFO Roundtable, John Schmidt, MDVIP's executive director, health systems, facilitated a discussion about consumer trends and strategies healthcare organizations can use to meet patient needs and prevent leakage.

Five key takeaways were: 

1. Patients are becoming increasingly engaged with their health. The Affordable Care Act changed the market and fueled the shift to patients being more involved healthcare consumers. With the rise of high-deductible health plans and patients controlling health savings accounts and flexible spending accounts, they are exploring their options and price shopping cost of services. "One of the best ways to address these trends is to drive awareness about your organization," Mr. Schmidt said. "It's easy to talk about cancer centers and women's health departments, but don't forget your auxiliary service lines. Explain your services to patients — send out a newsletter and use online ads so consumers are less likely to go elsewhere for care."

2. Many Baby Boomers are actively investing in their health. According to Mr. Schmidt, 20 million Baby Boomers are focused on age-related health issues, such as hormone replacement therapy, sexual wellness, aesthetics and personalized health. Educated consumers are often looking for a healthcare coach rather than the traditional physician/patient relationship. "These are the individuals you want to stay in your system because they are already committed to their health," he said. 

3. Consumers want trust with their doctors. Although usage of telemedicine surged between 2019 and 2022, over half of patients who have used telehealth don't like it. They feel that they've lost interpersonal interactions with their physicians and would like a dedicated provider who knows them. According to Symphony RM Research, nearly one in five patients (17%) are considering changing their doctor based on how they handled COVID-19.   "When healthcare organizations have strong relationships with patients, it's easier to keep their services within the four walls of the institution," Mr. Schmidt explained. 

4. Customer service is the number one factor influencing patient loyalty. This includes the demeanor, attentiveness and helpfulness of staff and practitioners. Press Ganey found that other top factors that influence patient loyalty include the quality of communication before and after appointments, the cleanliness of facilities, bedside manner, ease of intake and service conveniences. 

5. A pod strategy keeps referrals in your health system and prevents patient leakage. Some physicians are committed to referring patients to providers within the same organization. Referral allegiance declines, however, the further away geographically that physicians are from the health system. 

One way to combat this challenge is to use a "pod system." MDVIP works with organizations to develop pods for areas like pulmonary, cardiovascular and orthopedic care. The team identifies specialists within a geographic area to provide care when needed. " When people work with a physician who can get them an appointment with another specialist quickly, patient satisfaction and quality scores increase significantly," Mr. Schmidt said. 

Leading healthcare organizations recognize that meeting the needs of their communities is the key to prosperity in the months and years ahead. One size no longer fits all in the delivery of primary care. As the industry leader in membership-based healthcare, MDVIP develops programs that provide patients a new way to engage with the health system strengthening the system’s primary care portfolio. Physicians remain employed by the health systems, and patients are given the opportunity to personally invest in a physician/patient relationship that meets their personal needs. "To continue meeting patient expectations, you must evaluate how medicine is practiced within your health system and recognize that personalized care is a consumer's game," Mr. Schmidt said. 

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