Once upon a time, a consumer was someone who purchased goods in the retail space, a shopper, if you will. Technological developments such as online shopping, social media, digital marketing, online profiles and reviews, as well as personalized services, have helped morph yesterday's shoppers into today's consumers. So today, the meaning of consumer also encompasses someone who purchases goods and services in the healthcare realm. Which means patient relationship management is really just consumer relationship management.

Who's driving this change? Consumers. Today they're demanding greater customer service, convenience, and lowered costs when selecting and sticking with a healthcare provider or system because they've come to expect this value and these conveniences from other industries.

The emergence of consumer relationship management (CRM) systems
Currently, healthcare consumers may choose their own health plan, manage their healthcare information digitally, shop for the most reasonable healthcare services, and even visit an in-store clinic for care while shopping for their retail needs.

With all these choices and self-service options, successful healthcare organizations are paying more attention to what keeps their patients loyal. If your healthcare organization can crack the code to improving that loyalty with a patient, then a CRM system, previously thought of as an early funnel marketing tool, can be used to define and continue to grow relationships with consumers through the wealth of data it can store, segment, and manage.

What makes up a healthcare CRM system?
A CRM system is a data organizer, and should help you manage your data to:

  • Help patients make informed decisions
  • Help organizations improve effectiveness, efficiency, and value
  • Provide excellent consumer experiences
  • Outperform the competition
  • Attract new patients and retain current patients

The best systems allow a dialogue between providers and patients, use patient survey data to assess feedback and solidify relationships, incorporate a social media data as a means to engage patients further, help patients participate more fully in their care by the use of personalized resources such as newsletters, appointment reminders, event promotions via mobile apps, and other digital avenues of communication, and use the ever-growing amount of data from all these disparate sources to build upon these relationships.

Why all the fuss about good consumer relationships?
If consumers can book a flight from their mobile device, why can't they book a doctor's appointment? And if they can reorder medication from an online pharmacy, why can't they upload their symptoms to the doctor's office or transfer an X-ray from one provider to another? Increased convenience is what healthcare consumers are looking for. One in three healthcare consumers can't access their medical record from the cloud, according to an Ambra Health survey, much to their inconvenience.

With some strategic thinking, you should be able to use a healthcare CRM to both acquire new patients (old, top funnel thinking) as well as inspire loyalty to keep the patients you already have (new, consumer experience thinking). Business 2 Community reports that it's six to seven times more expensive to attain a new customer than it is to retain an existing one. So organizations, including healthcare providers, should work as hard to keep a patient as they do to find a new one.

How to improve consumer relationships and build loyalty
One study by New Voice Media found organizations lose $62B over poor customer service. Systems that will work best to retain and attract healthcare consumers should:

  • Offer personalized website experiences and communication and track consumer preferences
  • Respond quickly; healthcare consumers expect resolutions faster than ever before, and consumer satisfaction relies heavily on response time
  • Turn to Facebook for engagement efforts, which may offer more than meets the healthcare app, since consumers are experiencing app fatigue, and feel an app really has to provide value to take up GBs on their devices
  • Begin thinking about keeping up with Generation Z, those born in 1990 through early 2000s (and who outnumber Millennials by 3 million), since they spend more than 70 percent of their free time online

Understanding consumers, what makes them tick, what makes them choose an organization again and again, requires data. And the healthcare CRM can help your organization make sense of data from a variety of different sources - whether that's how someone behaves on your website, what their stated communication preferences are in your EHR, what their connected health devices are recording, or even clinical data. Healthcare organizations that understand how to use this data can enhance consumer experience, loyalty, trust, and credibility to acquire and retain healthcare consumers, improve health outcomes, and support overall goals.

Want to learn more about healthcare CRM and how it can benefit your organization? Download our Definitive Guide to Healthcare CRM.