How To Grow Beyond Patient Acquisition

Social, email, online, direct mail, TV, radio, print … there is a fierce battle underway to gain the attention of your patients and potential patients.

In an effort to win, healthcare marketers have recently shifted their strategy away from awareness marketing centered on brand building, to conversion marketing aimed at patient acquisition. Though this change in focus is important, it remains insufficient to lift organizations above the noise in fragmented markets growing increasingly crowded with messaging and competition.

What remains missing within most health systems are the strategy and tools that focus on retaining and growing existing patient relationships.   As most business leaders will agree, protecting your existing customer base is paramount.  In fact, acquiring a new customer is estimated to be from five to 25 times more expensive than retaining an existing one.

A Fresh Focus: Build Stronger Relationships with Existing Patients

Healthcare leaders willing to adopt customer strategies long-proven in other consumer markets stand to improve care and gain a significant competitive advantage. For example, two highly successful tactics in the hospitality and banking industries focus on engaging existing customers and cementing customer loyalty.  These same tactics are a perfect fit for the healthcare industry as well.

It is understood that the Net Promoter Score (NPS), which measures customer loyalty, ranks considerably lower for healthcare providers compared to most other consumer markets. As examples, research has shown hospitality and banking, both scoring in the 30% range, dwarfing the typical 10% NPS score found in healthcare. This gap indicates the tremendous opportunity for healthcare organizations that can successfully harness patient engagement and loyalty strategies already hardwired into other industries.

Three concepts from successful consumer marketing form the blueprint to expand from a single-threaded customer acquisition strategy to a comprehensive approach that includes driving loyalty and retention:

·      Customer Lifetime Value

·      Winning the Moment of Decision

·      Rewarding Behaviors & Loyalty


Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) may be one of the most important principles to be considered. In healthcare, it expands the goal from acquiring a patient for a single encounter to earning the patient’s entire care opportunity across all disciplines and for the complete time horizon of life. Further, the goal should be expanded to earning the entire household’s care throughout life.

The potential in healthcare is enormous. Calculations based on data from Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) show the healthcare CLV for a single household amounts to an impressive $1.4M.


The enduring relationships that define patient trust and lifetime loyalty are achieved by providing value from the customer’s vantage point, rather than simply pushing a service line or a specific physician. Successful implementation of this type of strategy requires changing the paradigm of encounter-specific tactics or service line-centered promotion to embracing what the patient, medical mom who makes family health decisions and other family members need on an ongoing basis.   Success is found in robust patient journey management.

One example from the hospitality industry comes from an organization that leverages a powerful lifecycle management program to shape communications and encounters around customer needs at specific points in the relationship journey. Some of these include recent stays, gaps in stays, approaching a new engagement tier, and extending a pattern of visits.

Similar opportunities exist in healthcare to establish an ongoing dialogue and persistent relationship with patients. Annual check-ups, immunizations, screenings, and HRAs (Health Risk Assessments) all offer potential. But going deeper, knitting together care plans, becoming a trusted partner, simplifying interactions and rewarding the right behaviors are all part of a patient’s journey and critical to winning patient loyalty.


Patient journey management and executing on a loyalty strategy are key to winning at the crucial Moments of Decision. Winning at this moment, in fact, supersedes the need to be better than a competitor in every aspect and across all measures of time. The idea is to identify key value drivers for patients, particularly at the time of decision. 

 “Micro moments”, coined by Google, describes the discrete windows within a customer journey during which a customer makes the decision to purchase from Brand X instead of Brand Y. Factors that contribute to the choice of X over Y often include past experiences as well as near-term benefits such as convenience, perks and the anticipated experience.

For example, the last thing a weary traveler wants to do after a long day is to stand in line at the hotel waiting to check in. One hospitality organization’s solution was to turn the smart-phone into a room key, eliminating the stop at the front desk. By highlighting digital key access during the booking process, closer to the moment of decision, they have seen significant gains in market share.

In healthcare, moments of decision happen for both wellness activities as well as emergency situations.  Patients will make decisions based on their personal value drivers.  The key is for health systems to have established deep on-going relationships, gained the status of a trusted health partner and provided desired experiences.


Behavioral science has well established that human nature responds favorably to timely recognition, reinforcement and rewards. As demonstrated across many consumer industries, brand selection and behavior choice can be impacted through a system of incentives including points, perks and privileges.

Healthcare marketers have an opportunity to drive healthier behaviors and increase market share through properly designed patient incentive programs that incorporate the science of loyalty programs developed in other consumer markets. This value exchange with the patient rewards them for healthy choices and loyal behaviors, creating a pattern of choice that is reinforced with each encounter.

For example, consumer banking and other retail merchants have developed sophisticated programs that successfully drive choice, rewarding their customers through benefit-rich programs. American Express and Capital One have both driven significant value in their respective markets for attracting and growing customer loyalty through use of point and perk-based programs.

Patient incentive programs are now emerging within healthcare in response to the need for care compliance and as a means of supporting the shift from volume to value reimbursement models. Points and perks in exchange for healthy behaviors fit the profiles of thanking your most valued customers for desired behaviors and of collapsing the time between “do this” and “get that.”  In fact, CMS has already published language regarding incentives given to individuals to promote the delivery of preventive care services where the delivery of such services is not tied (directly or indirectly) to the provision of other services reimbursed in whole or in part by Medicare or an applicable State health care program.

The Opportunity is Here

With healthcare organizations becoming increasingly interested in better managing patient journeys, improving patient compliance and growing market share, healthcare leaders are looking for the right solution.   In fact, those organizations that move quickly to implement solutions incorporating patient journey management, patient engagement and patient incentive strategies have a window of opportunity to drive durable relationships, improve care outcomes and move market share. Early adopters will achieve sustainable advantage in the market and develop a virtuous cycle of learning about individual customer values, delivering the optimum experience and iterating relationship intimacy at an accelerating pace.

It should also be noted, implementing the right patient-facing strategies can also positively impact a healthcare organization’s internal culture as employees reorient their focus from internal issues to seeing patients as customer VIPs, whose needs go beyond a single encounter.

A Fresh Look at Your Strategy

The Customer Evolution Consumer-Patient Model and our award-winning End2End Connected Care platform leverage years of serving some of the most respected healthcare providers in the country and applying principles and practices advanced on behalf of our strategic non-healthcare clients.  All of these experiences have informed our view of the art and science required to create deeper customer relationships and share-moving patient loyalty.

For a complimentary consultation with Customer Evolution to learn how you can begin to capture the $1.4 million value per household in your market, contact us at 877-714-3332 or complete our Contact Us form.

About the Author:  Sue Butler is the EVP, Client Success and co-founder of Customer Evolution, focused on advancing the consumerization of healthcare for a transformative health experience. With an extensive background in consumer-facing innovation that spans process improvement, experience management and product development, Sue has worked with clients in the fields of healthcare, insurance, financial services, technology services and hospitality.

About Customer Evolution: The Customer Evolution team is committed to helping health systems engage modern medical moms and digitally savvy patients in new, innovative ways. End²End™ was borne from our years of helping shape customer experiences and influence behavior outside of healthcare.  Our heritage serving world-class organizations such as Hilton, American Express, Chase, Wells Fargo and others cultivated a deep understanding of the proven methods which consistently deliver on the goals of experience and outcomes.  We combined this with the deep knowledge we have gained serving Tampa General, Henry Ford, Humana, Florida Blue and many more respected health institutions.  The result is a platform specifically designed to solving the journey management challenges facing health systems today. Learn more at