Patient Loyalty

Patient satisfaction is a unique and challenging aspect of the patient relationship to manage as it is impacted by so many things. The kind of quality that drives patient loyalty is not as simple as a measure of an objective fact. It is a measure of patient perception. When measuring patient satisfaction, the goal is to understand those factors that shape patient perceptions and how best to manage the variables that create those perceptions to a level that promotes not just satisfaction, but loyalty. The goal is to understand, protect and strengthen those variables in the patient/provider relationship that will keep the patient coming back and confidently telling others to migrate in the provider's direction.

Perceptions that drive loyalty change over time and within the moment based on the dynamics that are continuously playing out as the patient moves through their healthcare experiences. For example, a woman may be accepting of a twenty minutes wait in the emergency room for herself but that same woman may be very unaccepting of the same wait time if it is her three month-old child that is ill and running a fever of 104 degrees. Tolerance inside the healthcare system is a constantly changing dynamic and an effective patient satisfaction system helps to differentiate those subtle differences that a provider needs to know.

Patient loyalty is created when a patient's perception of the healthcare experience is exceptionally and consistently positive. Loyalty occurs when the experience consistently exceeds the patient's expectations and a high level of trust is established. When that level of trust exists, patients often become more accepting of minor variations as long as they don't come too often or negatively impact the quality of their lives.

Given all of the challenges that work against satisfaction and loyalty in today's market, loyalty is not something that a provider would want to leave to chance. It is something that should be managed inside the organization's quality program with the goal of driving satisfaction to a level that reaches beyond simple satisfaction and strives for loyalty.

Providers need to understand that perception is always stronger than fact when it comes to something as personal as satisfaction with a service that can have life or death consequences. This is especially true in an environment such as health care where people are placed at a disadvantage because of their lack of knowledge and their perceptions of limited control. Loyalty to a healthcare provider does not just happen; it is created.