Tips for hospitals to succeed in the age of consumerism

By Jonah Comstock
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The rise of consumerism in healthcare might seem like new ground to people in the industry, but when other industries are considered, that ground starts to look well-trodden. Customer service, customer satisfaction, and customer loyalty have been the North Star in other industries for years -- now it’s on hospitals to translate those values and skills into patient satisfaction and patient loyalty.

“Consumerism is all the rage, so it’s not like it’s a revelation to anybody, but in a way it’s been a long time coming,” said Preston Gee, VP of strategic marketing at Christus Health. “I’ve been in the field for quite a while and my background is in consumer-based marketing, so those of us who come from different sectors or from more of a consumer-centric orientation are quite frankly glad to see this day arrive. And it’s a challenge for a lot of folks in the healthcare sector because we have not been very consumer-driven historically, so we have to shift our way of thinking.”

At HIMSS18, Gee will tell hospitals how they can start operating like other businesses when it comes to bringing in and retaining customers. Gee will share insights from research Christus has done on what factors affect people’s decision-making when choosing a hospital. Technology is one major piece of the puzzle, but so is infrastructure — diversifying into different care environments that serve different patients’ needs.

“At the organization in recent years, we’ve brought more consumer-facing services and elements into our portfolio, for example we’ve ramped up our number of urgent care centers, ambulatory clinics, and freestanding emergency centers,” Gee said. “We’ve become more market-facing and consumer-oriented in terms of the portfolio that we’re offering. From a marketing, communications, messaging standpoint, we’ve done a number of things like getting a new content management system, a digital platform, one that has a responsive design, and paid a lot of attention to experience design and user experience.”

Gee said there are two main areas of focus: getting patients in the door and creating loyalty that leads to repeat visits.
“We’re an expert-driven model so we’ve said if we offer the services, people will come to us. But consumers are much more empowered, much more informed, and they have more economic involvement than they used to, so they’re going to search out the ratings and those kinds of things,” Gee said. “And then once we get people into our system, what do we need to do from a patient experience standpoint and a follow-up to make sure that they’re loyal to us? Just like any other industry, [we have to] very much focus on customer loyalty and retaining customers.”

Gee will be speaking in the session, “A New Era: The CMO’s Role at the Healthcare Consumerism Table,” at 11:30 a.m. March 7 in the Venetian, Palazzo B.

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