How to Win the Hearts and Wallets of Patients – Think of Them Like Consumers

When you think about attracting new patients to your practice, you may not remember that they are consumers — first and foremost. Consumers will only become patients, if you meet all their decision criteria and expectations. What’s more, throughout the patient journey they will view you and your chiropractic practice through a consumer lens.

The distinction between patient and consumer is not about splitting hairs over how you label those you help.

Why the consumer label?

In today’s instant information age, we all know we have many options when it comes to who we choose for services or goods. Chiropractic treatment is no different. At any given time, the people you’d like to engage as patients, or perhaps already have, are consuming a whole lot of information about you and your practice.

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First, they may receive information about you from a friend or referring healthcare practitioner. Even with a trusted referral, it’s very likely they will head to the internet for further information about you and your practice. Read on to see just how many people will do so; the number may surprise you. The additional information they look at includes multiple data points to be used for a mental decision checklist. (You’ll find examples of these decision points below.)

After the initial stage of the information hunt and resulting decision to see you, there’s more consumption (there’s that consumer word again). You see, a patient is constantly taking in information and experiences, an integral part of their ongoing patient journey.

You may not recognize it as such, and perhaps even the patient isn’t conscious of this consumer/patient cycle. But, with each interaction, your patient will make a choice as to whether to return, whether to keep “buying” what you do for them.

Of course, a relationship usually develops between chiropractor and patient. That, along with a positive change in whatever ails them typically keeps the patient returning for further treatments. But it’s worthwhile to keep in mind that this isn’t all that matters. Your patient-consumer will always be influenced by many factors that play into their continued willingness to spend their dollars and time with you.

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Know that each time a patient visits your practice, they observe the physical setting and ambiance of your office, they overhear staff conversations, they observe how you and your staff interact with other patients. It all adds up to one underlying question and choice:

Giving a new twist to a very old quote from Shakespeare’s Prince Hamlet,                  “To see (you), or not to see (you). That is the question.”

And, make no mistake — the question is a repeated one.

A recently published report from patient/provider match and referral platform, Kyruus, shows that “…today’s empowered consumers are taking an active role in their healthcare decisions and performing due diligence on providers. In fact, the data reveals that even when consumers receive a referral for a specialist, 90 percent always or sometimes still conduct research before scheduling with them.” The organization summarized their engagement survey findings saying this —

“Consumerism is changing the way patients find providers.”

Gone are the days when choosing a healthcare practitioner revolves primarily around a friend, family member, or another form of referral. Choices for chiropractic care and other healthcare services are now plentiful, information sources on a wide variety of factors are numerous, and patients are savvy.

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As alluded to above, today’s healthcare consumerism applies not only to choosing a provider for the first appointment, but also to the ongoing choice to continue seeing that provider. Given numerous practitioner choices and readily available research tools, consumerism allows for a patient to change providers if they are in any way dissatisfied.

More reasons to change the way you think about patients:

If you’re not already convinced that it’s time to embrace the concept of healthcare consumerism, we’ll break it down for you here:

1) As with consumers shopping for any other goods or services, healthcare consumers have a plethora of choices.

2) Whatever form of non-emergency care or chiropractic treatment a patient receives requires payment — in other words, it results in a financial transaction. And, in most ways that financial transaction is no different than any other buying decision.

3) Consumers consume. They take in a wide variety of information from a wide variety of sources when making buying decisions.

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4) Buying decisions almost always involve comparison, and as we’ve already mentioned, a chiropractic services consumer has access to many points of comparison. When deciding whether to visit your practice for the first time, a prospective patient — or, consumer, that is — will likely give attention to:

  • Location – local searches via voice search, Google Maps, Yelp; factors like parking ease and availability, exterior and interior pictures
  • “About” – staff bios and pictures, practice history, treatments and services offered, etc.
  • Website – blogs, images, overall “look & feel” and branding
  • Reviews – perhaps more important than any other single factor is what previous and current patients have to say about you and your practice
  • Appointment availability – 61% of those surveyed for this Kyruus patient engagement report say that they’ve moved on from one provider to another in the selection process if their first choice doesn’t have a soon enough available appointment.

5) Even when receiving a referral from a medical practitioner, 90% of patients prefer to do their own research — and, that research takes you back to the comparison points listed above.  (Source: Kyruus’ 2017 Patient Access Journey Report and Infographic)

6) Thirty-seven percent of patients said their preferred method for finding a provider was through independent research.  (Source: Kyruus’ 2017 Patient Access Journey Report and Infographic)

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Valuable concepts and insights, courtesy of the American Marketing Association:

From the blog article titled, 9 Consumerism Trends That Will Dominate Health Care Marketing in 2018

The AMA says this about user experience and the way it impacts a consumer’s view of healthcare interactions —

“Retailers offering speed and personalization are rising above generalized service offerings as user experience rises as a key leverage point. Patients are no longer willing to navigate voice prompts when trying to make an appointment; they will simply hang up and call another provider. They will also walk straight out of a waiting room if kept idle for too long. This applies to every aspect of user experience as it becomes easier for patients to seek alternatives.”

A key component of health consumerism, is “medical shopping.”

As explained by the AMA, “Consumer trust in reasonable and customary contracted rates through payers has eroded and patients are demanding pricing transparency in procedures and products. Comparison shopping for care is increasing and providers equipped to quote accurate pricing before care is administered are seen as more trustworthy than those who can’t or won’t. Expect this trend to force lower prices for care over time.”

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A phenomenon of “undoctoring” has occurred. Easy online access to research, opinions and care alternatives has led patients to seek supplemental therapies independent of what physicians and other care providers prescribe.

And lastly, when it comes to healthcare consumerism as applied specifically to millennials, convenience is of primary importance. But that doesn’t just mean automation or AI at every turn. As illustrated in the AMA’s blog infographic, millennials are interested in: same day appointments with general practitioners, reduced office wait times, in-home visits from a nurse or doctor and affordable alternative therapies.

What does this mean for your practice?

Payer-provider networks, government regulation, and related other factors may have slowed the impact of consumerism on healthcare. However, thanks in large part to the rise of the internet, that delay is no longer. Thinking of patients as consumers is a necessity for healthcare practices that want to thrive.

“The victors of health care over the next decade will all share one thing in common: the understanding that consumerism is king.”  (Source: American Marketing Association, 9 Trends That Will Dominate Health Care in 2018)

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Patient-consumers now approach “medical shopping” much like any other shopping experience, with similar desires for price transparency and comparisons. The experience they seek also includes a convenient, positive experience both online and in-person.

Chiropractors that keep the concept of healthcare consumerism front and center will win the hearts and wallets of patients.

As you ponder what that looks like for your practice, discover how LendingUSA’s point-of-need financing solution for chiropractic patients can provide added convenience and service to your patients — not to mention how it helps your practice, too.

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