[Podcast: Part of continuing series.] Healthcare Success CEO Stewart Gandolf talks with Rob Klein, founder and CEO of healthcare marketing research firm, Klein & Partners, about why patients are now consumers, and how being a doctor “that people like” is no longer sufficient to remain competitive in business.
In contemporary healthcare, passive patients have become empowered customers. It’s a dynamic of change in society—driven in no small part by the Affordable Care Act—that people “have more skin in the game,” and they increasingly expect healthcare to deliver a retail experience.
Unfortunately, doctors, primary care physicians and medical practices—the providers who are on the front line of the nation’s delivery system—are often resistant to change. Rob Klein’s research reveals, “Consumers are spending more money on health insurance.” And with a greater personal investment in their care, patient expectations are higher.
Patients have become a consumer in search of a retail-customer experience. With increased costs to the individual who is paying more, patients-now-customers feel that their time truly is just as valuable as the doctor’s time. What’s more, time away from their job to see the physician is income lost.
In their discussion today, Stewart Gandolf and Rob Klein examine other change factors and what providers and practices can do to recognize and adapt to change:
“People are time rushed or time stressed.” Life today is like drinking through a fire hose. For the consumer, being in a health care setting is stressful enough, and time weighs on them heavily when they are forced to wait.”
“Why don’t you eliminate the ‘waiting room’ in a doctor’s office?” By comparison with the retail experience, it’s not enough to simply be on time for many customers. Just-in-time delivery of services (as in many other industries) will become the best practices standard in the future. Get rid of the waiting room. It indicates a failure in service delivery.
“Wait time in a doctor’s office also means ‘you don’t care about me.’” People feel their needs have changed, they are stressed in everyday living, and providers are not helping me by adapting to changes. Simply being a doctor that people like is no longer good enough. Patients are willing to change providers to find the “retail experience” that recognizes that they are the paying customer.
“Why do I have to argue with my doctor’s office just to get an appointment?” Consumers often say that they can easily make a restaurant reservation (via OpenTable.com, for example), but it’s a hassle to see my doctor. Getting an appointment with a medical practice is not convenient or a pleasant experience.
“Name one retailer that is ever closed at lunch time.” The old, unkind reference to “banker’s hours” has been replaced these days is “physician hours.” It is counterproductive when people—customers—can’t reach the doctor’s office during lunch hours, early morning, afternoon). Convenience is the new currency, and business is lost to (competitive) providers who have a better answer for the people they serve.
The valuable message for medical practices and providers is that time is a critical consideration for marketing and advertising professionals. Recognize and adapt for success. Change has driven a new consumer reality in healthcare.
ADDITIONAL INSTALLMENTS in this series include:
For more than 30 years, Rob Klein has provided research and brand consulting to many leading hospital, system, and health plan brands. A frequent speaker at national healthcare conferences, Rob has served on the boards of the Detroit AMA (president), Chicago AMA (VP research), AHSM, and most recently on the national board of SHSMD.