Loyalty programs in healthcare: Nudging patients towards better health outcomes

Effective loyalty programs in healthcare and health-tech sector


Jul 18, 2022

Reza Javanian

Mohammadreza Javanian

Editorial Content Writer

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8 minutes to read

The development and execution of effective loyalty programs in the healthcare/health tech sector has gained pace over the past few years as more companies seek to build trust and meaningful relationships with their customers. 

Partially, this is because the Covid-19 pandemic has altered the way we live. We continue to work, shop, eat out and travel but we're more conscious and concerned about our health than ever. When people value health, their expectations for quality healthcare services — including prevention measures and effective treatment — rise to a whole new level. 

With customers seeking new health opportunities, there is a big influx of interest in health brands. But as these new customers benefit from your service, the question becomes: how do I keep my best customers, how do I take good care of their health. From the customer retention perspective, this is an exciting opportunity for the healthcare sector to benefit from the engagement capacity of loyalty programs. A strong loyalty program can help brands across the healthcare sector to:

  • encourage a healthy lifestyle

  • build trust with their patients

  • receive referrals from their satisfied patients

  • reduce their costs by focusing on prevention measures

  • address patients’ concern about high healthcare costs

High consumer-brand interaction in healthcare services

Healthcare belongs to the category of “high-involvement services”, in which consumer engagement is exceedingly high. Because of this, healthcare services are able to benefit from high consumer engagement rates if they think about loyalty in an innovative, systematic way. 

Types of consumer engagement in healthcare services

Although the relative rate of customer engagement is high, not all healthcare users approach service providers in the same way. According to a Deloitte survey, 

  • 34% of consumers are categorized as casual and cautious. These consumers are cost conscious and least prepared financially. 

  • 22% are content and compliant. They have high trust in physicians and rely on them to make decisions.

  • 19% are online and onboard. These consumers are happy with the service but want to understand the options. They have a high use of online resources and want quality/price details.

  • 11% are sick and savvy. These are the heavy users of health care. They are most prepared financially to handle future healthcare costs.

  • 8% are out and about. They are independent consumers who tend to rely on self when making decisions. They’re also active users of online health care resources.

  • 6% are shop and save. They actively seek options and switch plans, physicians and medications for better value.

The results of the above survey highlight two key areas which can be addressed by an effective loyalty program:

  • Financial concern: Most of the consumers are eager to know the financial details of the healthcare services in a transparent way. This is the area where financial incentives can help the healthcare sector to gain the trust of patients and increase consumer engagement.

  • Trust: Not all consumers are compliant with their prescribed health plan or medications. This lack of trust can convince consumers to change their healthcare provider. Non-financial incentives can be a major boost in increasing consumers’ trust to and engagement with their healthcare brand. Such incentives can suggest the healthcare provider prioritizes the wellbeing of its patients over and above anything else. 

Loyalty programs for well-informed patients

The healthcare industry is facing the emergence of a new generation of patients who are more educated and smart about their health. This primarily owes to two key paradigm shifts:

  • Rise of digital resources: The availability of online information sources has enabled individuals to make well-informed and smart decisions when it comes to their health. Most people read reviews and compare service providers to ensure they’re making the best choice for their health in the long-term. Their new expectations include a streamlined healthcare experience, cost transparency, a digitally connected experience, convenience and data privacy. 

  • Covid-19 pandemic: The last two years reminded us that we know very little about our physical and mental health — and find it hard to make relative assesments of risk. The new interest in/concern about health has prompted many individuals to educate themselves about health plans, medications, diseases, etc.

Loyalty programs across healthcare sector

Although customer loyalty can help the healthcare industry build lasting trust with patients and decrease costs in a significant way, the use of loyalty programs is by no means widespread in this sector. This suggests those who now consider executing a loyalty program can become future loyalty leaders, retaining current customers and attracting new ones. Here’s some insights for different players in healthcare. 

Hospitals and clinics

Hospitals and clinics are still the main touchpoints in the customer healthcare experience. However, patients are increasingly demanding quality customer journeys from these providers. Health is a uniquely personal topic, and by providing a personalized and empathetic experience, healthcare firms can ensure repeat business. The following loyalty solutions can help hospitals and clinics stand out from the crowd by building trust and relationships with customers:

  • Shared and transparent decision-making: Transparency is the key to customer loyalty. Studies show that customer’s participation in the diagnosis and treatment can significantly increase their satisfaction from the health services they receive. Such transparent and collaborative processes can onboard patients to new parts of their health journey.

  • Donations to healthcare workers: This is a very effective strategy in which patients are encouraged to donate their loyalty points to healthcare workers, enabling them to get a raise, take some days off, travel, etc. Similar schemes to link loyalty points to a good and sustainable cause would also be effective. 

Health insurance companies

Health insurance providers can respect their customers’ financial and non-financial concerns by developing cutting-edge loyalty programs. These loyalty schemes can:

  • increase a brand’s personalized interaction with its customers

  • encourage and reward a healthy lifestyle

  • drives more sales

TK (Techniker Krankenkasse) is the largest health insurance fund in Germany. TK rewards customers through its app if they accomplish a certain TK-fit challenge. The points they collect can then be redeemed as a discount on purchases from a wide range of brands. Health insurance companies can also integrate counseling vouchers and gift cards into their loyalty schemes — because mental health is now a growing concern for people. 

“In the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, global prevalence of anxiety and depression increased by a massive 25%.”

World Health Organization

Health-tech startups

Technological solutions ranging from blockchain and artificial intelligence to big data analysis and advanced sensors have prompted the surge in the number of startups that provide advanced, digitized health services. These companies seek to provide fast and equal access to healthcare services for all patients. The headless business model of healthcare startups allows them to integrate API-based loyalty solutions into their tech stack. 

The French health-tech startup, Doctorlib, creates a platform for all its users to have fair and transparent access to a large number of physicians and clinics. Loyal consumers can get diet and exercise instructions based on their height and weight on Doctorlib app, along with other tailored experiences. 

Digital therapeutics and customer loyalty 

Digital therapeutics (DTx) is a growing trend in the health-tech sector, utilizing digital health technologies to treat a medical or psychological condition. The treatment focuses on behavioral and lifestyle changes.

The tech capacity of this treatment method enables companies to increase the engagement of patients by sending hyperpersonalized messages to their users. Moreover, they can create a seamless customer experience by creating links between all touchpoints (app, website, social media pages, etc.). 

Quality healthcare needs quality loyalty programs

As consumers/patients demand quality, transparent and personalized healthcare, the companies operating across this sector need to reconsider their customer engagement strategies. In a context marked by increasing competition and vigilant, educated patients, nurturing loyal and healthy consumers requires an effective loyalty program that persuades patients towards better health outcomes and gives the service provider its competitive edge. 

Not only health-tech startups, but also many established healthcare organizations are turning to digital to stay competitive. The digital transformation is key to the development and implementation of impactful loyalty programs. 

Talon.One’s software solution integrates seamlessly into your company’s tech stack, enabling you to run countless promotion campaigns with minimum set-up and maximum efficiency. From coupons and gift cards to digital wallets, bundling and geofencing, you’ll future-proof your loyalty campaign because you have all loyalty features at your fingertips.

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