President and Founder
The healthcare industry is under threat of disruption from influences within and outside of the industry. With one of the lowest Net Promoter Scores (NPS) of any industry, healthcare providers must rethink their approach to care delivery and the patient experience.
How can healthcare providers stay relevant in a world where patient expectations are changing so rapidly?
For healthcare brands, staying relevant requires re-orienting the innovation process toward patients by consistently striving to understand them. Providers can no longer rest on methodologies that have worked in the past. They must take a new, more proactive approach to healthcare industry market research.
From “Patients” to “Consumers”: Reframing the Conversation
Medicine has long been a research-oriented field. However, the empirical methods that have led to major strides in treatment have been too often overlooked when it comes to patient care and satisfaction.
Healthcare providers must reframe the conversation. They must start understanding that “patients” are also “customers.” The reason is a fundamental difference between the expectations and demands of the two. “Patients” feel obliged to act exactly as directed. “Customers” have choices. “Patients” are often too intimidated to voice their true preferences, needs and pain points. “Customers” demand to be listened to.
This simple mindset shift encourages healthcare providers to apply a more strategic approach to understanding their customers.
Getting Out Of The Echo Chamber
In order to achieve true insight that moves the needle on customer affinity, health providers should look outside the industry and learn from technology, retail and other consumer-centric and disruptive industries. While this may be a new approach for the healthcare industry, consumer brands have been addressing these challenges for years.
Part of getting out of the echo chamber is learning from industries and companies who put the consumer first by making it a priority to learn as much as they can about their customers. Like commercial brands, healthcare providers must use these insights to design delivery systems and products and services that align with customer needs and expectations.
For today’s connected consumers, their best experience anywhere becomes their expectation everywhere. They have little patience for any brand that can’t catch up. As such, the industry is ripe for disruption from brands that deliver innovation, even if those brands are not traditionally associated with healthcare.
Healthcare providers must move away from an episodic approach to delivering healthcare to a continuous cultivation of the patient relationship. This requires taking the time to understand customers’ pain points and functional and emotional needs and priorities, as well as adopting a “phygital” mindset to ensure consistency of experience across both physical and digital touchpoints.
Read more: How to ensure your research is reliable.
What Do Healthcare Consumers Really Want?
Once the decision has been made to invest in healthcare industry market research, providers are faced with a crucial task: determining what customers want, then understanding the relative importance of each.
Unfortunately, there are no quick fixes. Healthcare is a personal and emotionally-fraught topic for consumers, so relying on a single study or an ad hoc approach to research will not move the needle in any significant way.
In order to uncover insights that lead to true advancement, healthcare providers must take a holistic approach to understand consumers. We call these WHOLE MIND™ market research methods. This involves not only accessing customer feelings from a logical standpoint but also revealing the emotionally-driven “gut reactions” that customers have a hard time articulating.
To achieve the full value of market research, we integrate System 1 and System 2 research methods.
System 1 research methods tap into automatic, intuitive and unconscious decision-making to surface the non-conscious drivers and connections that influence perception and action. System 1 uses techniques such as in-person or mobile ethnographies, online metaphor elicitation, implicit association or eye tracking to determine emotional context and relative importance of various aspects of a healthcare brand.
System 2 research methods require customers take a more controlled, analytical approach to decision-making that filters out automatic instincts and biases. These methods may involve traditional healthcare industry market research methods like surveys and focus groups, but also includes more modern tactics such as online insight communities, ad tracking and digital UX testing.
The Path Forward: Listen Closely, Respond Quickly
Healthcare as a category must become more agile in order to keep pace with this new consumer-centric landscape. This means not just listening to consumers but building an ongoing process for customer listening that prioritizes iteration over discreet solutions.
Iteration shouldn’t be limited to a one-off buzzword; it should become a vital part of every healthcare provider’s DNA. “Director of Customer Experience” has been a common job title in the commercial world for years. Now we’re seeing more and more healthcare providers who recognize the value of engaging in two-way dialog with customers. By listening closely and uncovering true healthcare customer needs and pain points, health brands that incorporate greater agility into their processes increase their ability to deliver on consumer expectations.