Loyalty Drivers in the Consumer Healthcare Market

Loyalty Drivers in the Consumer Healthcare Market

Loyalty Drivers in the Consumer Healthcare Market

29 November 2016

Why loyalty matters

As the healthcare industry moves toward outcome-based models of care, and reimbursements now factor in more financial and utilization risk, the relationship between doctor and patient takes on a new level of importance.  Consider the following statements from two healthcare consumers discussing different regional competitors:

● “… if you don't feel your provider is listening to you I don't think you will listen to them and may not come back or seek future treatment because you don't feel like what you say matters…”

● “Well - the fact that the doctor & staff actually listened and took the time to look into learning about us personally really meant something… it really means something to have that "personal connection" with medical staff.”

It’s not hard to guess which of these consumers will be more regular with their check-ups and more compliant with treatment programs.  If we cannot address the satisfaction of a patient during their visit, why would we expect them to return at all?  Health care consumers face an expanding array of choices offering solutions for what ails you and vying for their healthcare dollars.  In dunnhumby’s own study, we found that half of consumers would be willing to switch their primary care physician (1).  Urgent care centers, which did not exist prior to the 1970’s, are now estimated to have upwards of 9,000 facilities claiming over $14.5 billion in annual revenue (2).  Retail health clinics as well, non-existent prior to 2001 now represent over 2% of all primary care visits, have grown to over 1,900 sites in 2014 and will be north of 2,800 in 2017(3)

Winning a consumer’s loyalty means more than just building relationships with current patients.  Our research shows that in some markets, over 80% of consumers say that recommendations from friends and family influence their choice of where to seek health care with a growing presence of digital and social media sources providing that influence.  Listening to the patients themselves, it’s easy to see how the kinds of experiences that build loyalty also fuel growth:

  • My sister is now [being seen by] my primary doctor and my gynecologist both who are members of the [client’s] network. So I guess, I recruit for the system as well.”

What are Loyalty Drivers?

In order to earn your consumer’s loyalty, you need to understand which aspects of the health care experience are most critical to them and how your network and health system are performing on them.  A recent poll shows that the majority of people who visited an urgent care center did so because they thought it was more convenient and took less time (4).  Without knowing the consumer’s needs, or how well you are meeting them compared to your competitors, you are likely missing critical needs your consumers’ have causing lost opportunities while letting valued patients and consumers waltz into your competitors.                         

We have developed a solution for identifying the factors that drive loyalty among your consumers.  We call these factors Loyalty Drivers.  Our Loyalty Drivers are developed through our highly customized surveying and analytical techniques to tell you exactly how much price, access, service, quality, and over 20 other aspects of the health care experience influence how consumers in your market choose to seek out health care. 

Next, we ask consumers to rate their satisfaction on each Loyalty Driver for both yourself and your primary competitors.  This robust suite of insights enables better decision-making around how to invest resources across your capabilities.  For instance,

  • Figure 1 below shows the average satisfaction ratings for the top five Loyalty Drivers in a particular market
  • the poor ratings for all three health systems when it comes to providing physician ratings 
  • System A has the largest lead when it comes to Loyalty Drivers that reflect a more consumer-focused strategy, whereas,
  • System B does best on the more provider-centric Loyalty Drivers. 

A clearer understanding of what factors matter the most to your consumer’s can lead to better strategy decisions, especially when combined with data on how your system performs on those factors compared to key competitors.

A Consumers Journey in Healthcare

We break our defined Loyalty Drivers into four distinct Mindsets to represent the four main stages a consumer undertakes when they engage in either healthcare delivery or wellness choices.  This is similar to other industries that engage directly with consumers (B:C) like retail organizations.  The four Mindsets:   

  • Consider (the consumer first becomes aware they have a health care or wellness need and considers how and what that need can or should be addressed by);
  • Decide (the consumer has settled on the type of care needed and now must decide which provider meets that need);
  • Visit (the consumer visits their selected provider and receives care/treatment); and
  • Reflect (the consumer reflects back on their journey and weighs whether or not their needs were met and develops their perspective of value received). 

We survey consumers in a market to have them identify where they need or expect the most help in their decision.  Looking at Figure 2, we can see how the needs of the consumer can shift depending on a variety of local market factors that can include the opening of a new urgent care clinic to the design of a system’s website.  This can then become both a benchmark for future surveys to determine progress in addressing that need as well as pinpointing your own focus and priorities in planning communications, messaging and patient engagement strategies in the current environment.

Taking this granular, in-depth view of the motivations within each stage of the consumer journey gives health care providers the advantage of knowing exactly which Loyaty Drivers mean the most to their consumers, and which levers to pull in order to produce the desired change in your consumer’s behaviour. The healthcare industry has done quite a bit of work measuring patient satisfaction.  Missing from this important patient level data is a view from a consumer lens.  As healthcare continues its transformation to a value-based model, we expect a stronger voice from the consumer to be heard.  As noted above in the Loyalty Drivers discussion, understanding the importance of your consumer’s Loyalty Drivers helps to position and prioritize your health system to build satisfied and loyal consumers.  And then begin to hear the voice of your consumers advocating on your behalf.  A much sweeter sound we would agree. 


1 Pratt, Cara, dunnhumby, Loyalty Rx: Solving the Consumer Loyalty Crisis in Healthcare with Data, 2016
2 Creswel, Julie. Race Is On to Profit From Rise of Urgent Care. The New York Times, July 9, 2014.   

3 Caufield, John, Rapid Growth of Retail Health Clinics Presents New Choices for Consumers, Payers and Providers, Building Design+Construction, June 19, 2016, 
4 Neighmon, Patti. Can’t Get In to See Your Doctor?  Many Patients Turn to Urgent Care.  NPR, March 7, 2016 

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