Guest Blog by Karen Corrigan: Patient Satisfaction Isn’t Always an Indicator of Patient Loyalty

Recently, I left my primary care physician of some 10 years to establish a relationship with a new doctor.  Not because I was unhappy or dissatisfied with his services, or because we moved, or changed insurance, nor any of many other frequently-cited reasons.  The defection started with an advertisement for a medical group that offered web access to patient medical records, on-line appointment setting and prescription refills and email communications with its doctors. 

I checked out the group’s website where I was able to learn more about their physicians through detailed biographies, credentials and video profiles.  The practice’s affiliation with our region’s top-ranked health system offered assurance as to the quality and expertise of its doctors.  After choosing one of the physicians from her on-line profile (and a few inquiries to friends and colleagues), I requested an appointment for a ‘get acquainted’ visit with Dr. Roberts.

At that first visit, registration was welcoming and efficient.  The receptionist provided instructions as to how to establish access to my new, on-line medical record.  In the exam room, Dr. Roberts inquired about my personal health goals and expectations for an effective patient- doctor relationship.  She recommended and scheduled some past due screenings.  The visit was professional, friendly and unhurried. When I stood to leave, Dr. Roberts looked me in the eye, shook my hand and said, “If you need anything at all, just email me.”

At that point, she became my new primary care physician.  I had just found nirvana – a quality, e-savvy, web-connected, consumer-centered medical practice. 

Just a few days later, I received an email letting me know that my mammography exam results were available on my medical record – a few clicks of the mouse and there it was!  The practice also has a Facebook page, where news and health tips are posted daily.  Just yesterday, I learned on Facebook that the group will soon launch a mobile app for its electronic medical record, making access to my physician, health information and other services even more accessible, whenever and wherever.  That news was promptly shared with all of my FB friends, family and colleagues.

In thinking about this post, it dawned on me that my previous doctor didn’t lose a patient because of anything he’d done, but because of something that wasn’t done.  He was a good doctor and I had up-to-now been satisfied with his services, yet something in the new practice’s advertising caught my attention and stimulated an inquiry.  But it was the ‘trial’ experience that created the conversion.  And apparently, for others as well – in the short period since the ads have been running, several hundred new patients have joined the group. 

As a marketer, I’ve long looked at patient satisfaction scores with skepticism.  Don’t get me wrong – it’s important to create good customer experiences.  However, satisfaction studies measure customer perceptions at a point in time.  They are poor predictors of future loyalty, especially where value innovations are concerned.  I was satisfied with Blackberry until I tried the iPhone

And now, I can’t imagine going back to a physician practice that is not e-savvy or accessible by web, email and social networking. 

Karen Corrigan is a founder and partner at Corrigan Partners, LLC, where she provides counsel on business, brand and marketing strategies to drive growth and create competitive advantage for health systems, start-up companies, technology partners and other businesses.  Karen is publisher of Chief Marketing Officer, a blog for healthcare marketing executives. Email her at karen@corriganpartners.com or connect on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter @karencorrigan.

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