Loyalty is Dead—Even in Healthcare

Posted on April 30, 2013

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Retail healthcare is advancing in sophistication, and this is a good thing.

Healthcare providers continue to reach out more into the community with outpatient services, going to the people—this is progressive.  Historically, most hospitals have played from a position of strength in the healthcare delivery relationship:  patients come to us.

Hospitals continue to become more versed in the rules of a competitive, retail business environment.  An unfortunate reality of retail for hospitals to accept:  loyalty is dead.

Becker’s Hospital Review covered this in a retail strategies article last week.  In fact, loss of loyalty is a dawning realization for most everyone in business.  Gone are legacy providers, de facto anything.  Employers now realize employees, especially Gen Y, are short-term, what-are-you-going-to-do-for-me-today contractors.  Commercial exchanges are transactional.  Your favorite stylist is only as good as her last haircut.  Almost every week a new article debates the efficacy of loyalty programs because fewer and fewer customers have the patience to buy-buy-buy and wait / hope for a payback.  Stockpile miles?  Punch a card with fifteen purchases to get 50% off my next visit—how many years will that take?

Becker’s cautions hospitals to assume patients are staying put, that they will always come to your hospital:  “this notion of loyalty, as comforting as it may be, does not belong in a system’s market share strategy….Year over year loyalty should not be relied upon.”  What do they suggest for planning?  Inconsistency.  Get comfortable with that because it’s here to stay.

In the past, I have questioned blind loyalty of any sort, especially in planning, design and construction (PDC) team selection.  It is the same rationale employees use when they seek outside offers before asking for a raise:  relationships tend to be taken for granted through loyalty.  This allegiance is particularly detrimental to hospitals because loyalty only gets them into trouble by not keeping service providers honest—unless they continue to improve each year and show you how they are a better value than the next guy.  Constant improvement…perhaps the only excuse for loyalty.  How has your team improved this year?

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