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Paying Patients: Are Rewards Programs Next for Physician Marketing?

By Stewart Gandolf, Chief Executive Officer

Egg and golden eggFrom airline frequent flyers to auto parts bonus buys, American consumers are consumed by loyal-customer incentive schemes. Purchases earn points, miles, discounts, and even cash rewards…all to inspire buyers to buy again and buy more. (How many little “advantage” scan cards are in your pocket?)

It works in retail. And not surprisingly, this proliferation of engaging programs and the consumer mindset—an expectation of a financial reward—has already taken roots in corners of the healthcare industry. The public (meaning patients and prospective patients) wants to be financially rewarded for being actively engaged in their health, according to a new study.

The 2012 Healthcare Economics & Innovation Outlook reports, “the vast majority of consumers believe there should be a connection between healthy habits and financial reward. 80 percent of consumers, in fact, want to be paid by their employers or insurers for taking such actions as losing weight, exercising and complying with their medication regimen.” [Read the report on this page.]

Will your doctor advertising declare a monetary dividend for patients who “do the right thing” and engage in their own healthy and preventive care? Medical insurance plans, retail pharmacy outlets, employers, large health systems and some hospitals have launched healthy-living rewards programs.

Although the concept of “paying to incentivize patients” does not set comfortably with many doctors, there are some provider practices that have taken a seat on this bandwagon. (Of course, such endeavors need to be designed in a manner that is ethical, appropriate and consumer convenient.)

In addition to the now-documented consumer expectations, rewards and incentive programs have other benefits. These can include:

  • Intrinsic benefit of improved health and wellness;
  • Personalization of care and active patient engagement;
  • Patient-provider bonding and involvement;
  • Prevention-oriented mindset;
  • Reduced claims and system cost savings; and
  • Prospective lower premiums for individual and employers.

Various forms of rewards programs will increasingly appear in physician advertising and medical group marketing. If you already have a program of this type in your medical practice or hospital marketing program, or if you’ve seen one that’s patient enticing and unique, let us know about it.

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