Elective Healthcare a Key Concern for Hospitals

by Lauren Hillery

As if national healthcare systems weren’t stressed enough with the recent surge of COVID-19 cases, the American Hospital Association reported these institutions are on the precipice of losing $54 billion in net income this year as they struggle with endless setbacks, including higher labor expenses, drug and supply costs and waning elective procedure revenue — a significant financial driver for hospitals.

Specifically in Arizona, the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association reported elective surgeries make up 30–40% of hospitals’ revenue. When Governor Ducey mandated a ban on elective procedures during the height of the pandemic, the local healthcare industry felt the financial strain. With elective procedures currently authorized, AzHHA reports that Arizona could see up to half a billion dollars per month come back into its economy. To help guarantee that revenue, Arizona healthcare providers must place a higher priority on the patient experience.

To better understand healthcare patients, LaneTerralever and Convince & Convert conducted a nationwide survey of more than six hundred recent and prospective patients — 50% male, 50% female and representing all age groups, with the largest being 35-64 (65%) — that resulted in the 2021 Elective Healthcare Modern Patient Insights Report. They found 66% of respondents delayed surgery due to the pandemic and 39% do not plan to reschedule due to their personal frustration with the healthcare patient experience. The survey uncovered a large gap between provider-to-patient communication and patients’ expectations of the experience versus the reality.

“It felt like they sold me on the procedure, and once it was done, they were finished with me,” said John, a 61-year-old cosmetic patient. Moreover, 74% of patients are sharing this kind of patient experience directly with others, while 33% post it on social media. 

Overall Patient Experience More Important Than Procedure Outcome

Overall, we found only 39% of patients are satisfied with the results of their procedures. Yet, it is the quality of the complete experience — not just the quality of procedural outcome — that principally determines their feelings toward providers. There are ample opportunities for providers to improve this patient experience. Providers need to remember their patients are emotional by nature and feel enormous uncertainty throughout this process. Treating them with empathy and compassion across all communication methods will help them feel less alone during their journey.

Patients Evaluate Fewer Providers than Expected

During their research phase, 78% of prospective patients evaluated only one to two providers and made a decision fairly quickly. Sixty-four percent spent less than three months researching their procedure/providers and 32% scheduled their initial consultation in three weeks or less. This means providers have a short window to turn a patient performing research into a patient booking a procedure.

Proactive Approach to Reputation Management

This also means providers have an opportunity to make a difference in a patient’s experience long before they make a decision. Providers need to take a more proactive approach with their reputation management. This involves more than generic replies to negative reviews. Instead, providers should use this as a chance to show their commitment to patient satisfaction, making it known they are connecting with a disgruntled patient and trying what is best to right a negative experience. This shows prospective patients they will be taken care of and may convert a detractor patient into a neutral or positive advocate.

Providers Must Ramp Up Patient Education

Another area of opportunity the report identified is to clearly set patients’ expectations before a procedure. Forty-four percent of patients said their questions were not answered by a provider’s website and 56% did not understand the costs involved — which is significant, as cost is a major deterrent to booking a procedure. 

To address this issue, providers need to establish better patient education from early research to post-op care by turning their expertise and authority into content patients can utilize. Potential website content could include video interviews, interactive quizzes, procedure timelines, infographics and more. Prospective patients will feel more confident in their decision to move forward with their procedure and provider when provided with these clear expectations.

Post-op Patient Engagement Can Drive Referrals

To round out the patient journey, post-op care is where many providers drop off, with 56% not proactively following up after a procedure. In fact, 28% followed up regarding billing only. Providers should utilize one-to-one marketing and make time to speak to each post-op patient personally during their recovery period. This also helps with reputation management as it allows the provider to address any concerns or complaints before they become a public negative review. Plus, these patients not only have the potential to drive patient referrals, but they also may need another elective procedure in the future. Because of this, placing value in post-op engagement should be every provider’s priority. 

Healthcare providers need to re-examine the patient journey from the endpoint because the dissatisfactions that jeopardize elective treatment business aren’t solved by traditional marketing efforts. The smallest thing a patient feels dissatisfied about during their post-op experience could change the entire trajectory of their reflection on that experience.

Nothing will set providers and healthcare providers up for success more than proactively taking more ownership over their patient experience. While providers have little control over COVID caseloads, they do have control over this behavior.

Lauren Hillery is the director of brand strategy at LaneTerralever. LaneTerralever helps healthcare providers attract qualified patients and improve satisfaction with creative lead generation and seamless digital patient experiences. The agency has increased patient volume and satisfaction for providers including HonorHealth, American Vision Partners, Landmark Recovery, NextCare Urgent Care, The Joint Chiropractic, Phoenix Children’s, and Risas Dental and Braces.

Did You Know: Thirty-nine percent of patients do not plan to reschedule their pandemic-delayed surgery or treatment and research shows a negative experience is to blame, according to the 2021 Elective Healthcare Modern Patient Insights Report from LaneTerralever and Convince & Convert. 

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