Can a Loyalty Program for a Hospital Really Work?

By Alaa Halawi

How can hospitals increase revenue per patient and turn them into loyal customers? By answering this question, we’re neglecting the altruistic care that is expected from a healthcare institute. However, it is possible to have a successful loyalty program that is considerate to patients’ needs and makes business sense.

To start with, we need to emphasize the importance of the stringent social contract healthcare institutes have with their community and the citizens they serve – namely, meeting the medical needs of society through compassionate service. Any structured loyalty program that plans to engage with patients’ needs to honor this social contract.

The basis of a healthcare “loyalty” program starts by changing the typical business-customer dynamic. Think about how the healthcare institute can be loyal to their patients and not the other way around. Begin by exploring what the healthcare institute can do to acknowledge and reward the patients that decided to entrust their health and lives to its medical staff.

To have a successful loyalty program, there are four major shifts required from the outset to steer your loyalty program in the right direction.

Perspective Shift

Free your organization from the temporary status label of “patient” and embrace a longer-term relationship with the people who visit your healthcare facilities, covering all moments of their lives as well as those of the ones they care for. They are only a “patient” momentarily when they need you the most, but it does not mean that after the person becomes healthier – and aims to stay out of your hospital – your obligation towards them needs to end.

Make sure enrolment to your loyalty program is not limited solely to patients with a certain Electronic Medical Record (EMR) criterion based on several years, last visit, length of stay, etc. Instead, allow membership to be initiated by doctors, medical staff, patients, and others in the network. Invite patients who have completed customer feedback forms to be rewarded for giving their generous opinion on how to become better, too.

Relational Shift

Once a new perspective is established, and members no longer represent a sequence of transactions, customers now have a relationship with the institute that goes beyond themselves and includes loved ones as well. The relationship can include many roles, in addition to a patient, such as primary patient companion, visitor, or enquirer. All these different interactions or “events” at different moments in people’s lives need to be captured and rewarded. Make sure your members “check-in” at that moment through your loyalty program where they are incentivized with points that are redeemable against an item or service.

We have already emphasized the importance of community, so making sure that referrals are rewarded through the loyalty program will create a communication platform with a large prospect database. This will deliver the potential for future revenues and large cost savings in advertising.

Benefits shift

The next step is to reward the people who put their trust in you the most and make sure that you take care of the ones that they care for. Rewarding them can be achieved by cultivating a network of partners that promote and enrich a healthy lifestyle.

In choosing redemption partners, deprioritize your gift shop near the lobby and look to the wider market such as a large fitness gym network, online healthy food recipe subscription, a grocery store chain and other large-scale businesses that add to the health span of your members. It makes business sense for these businesses to partner with you due to your brand image and values, access to potential customers and value proposition alignment. Thus, this gives you the opportunity to compensate part of the cost of the loyalty program with complementary offerings or even paid inclusion in your program.

Behavioral shift

We’ve established that your loyalty program should reward good behavior. One of the biggest value disrupters is when patients don’t show up on time to their appointments, or even at all. This creates either unbilled time or a poor patient experience for those waiting. Rewarding patients for their timely arrival will have a direct impact on your business while also creating a better patient experience for all.

In summary, designing a loyalty program that is geared for good will enhance your overall brand experience and increase your brand salience within the community you serve.

Doing good makes business sense. Delivering it through a strong loyalty program makes perfect sense.