February 25, 2020

Consider Emotional Motivators When Engaging Patients – Even Financially

We know instinctively that emotional connections drive behavior – it’s part of our human experience. An article in Harvard Business Review from a few years back hit our radar again recently. It struck us as a timely topic given the general conversation in healthcare today around patient engagement.


Emotionally connected consumers pay more attention to your communications.

The author maintains that an emotional connection is somehow—and somewhat incongruously—more important than customer satisfaction when it comes to engaging consumers.

That’s compelling. How you make people feel is more important than their satisfaction with your brand or their last experience. That puts a lot of pressure on your engagement strategy for connecting with patients—particularly with financial communications. And, let’s face it, financial communications are rarely perceived as a positive engagement.

The HBR author explores 10 key emotional motivators for consumer engagement. We find three in particular to be most relevant when it comes to healthcare financial communications:

  • Confidence in the future
  • Sense of well-being, freedom from stress
  • Feeling of security, a tomorrow without worry

Contrast those fundamental human needs with this stat – 40% of Americans fear the cost of a healthcare encounter more than the diagnosis itself. It’s understandable, when you consider the unknowns that surround healthcare financial responsibility. People want to be in control when it comes to their finances.

If we focus on these three motivators, it stands to reason that we can create an emotional connection with patients by replacing financial fear with confidence. Here are some techniques:

  • Provide patients a clear estimate of what they’re likely to owe, and match payment options to their needs as early as possible in the process.
  • Offer flexible payments (payment plans, prompt-pay discounts, scheduled payments, and financial assistance options) to drive patients to actions that work best for them – again as early as possible in the process.
  • Give patients the sense that “you know them” by using data you have about them to understand their needs and behaviors, and tailor your communications accordingly. Make it consistent. Offering different options at different stages of the process, pre-and post-service, creates confusion and uncertainty—and perpetuates apprehension and fear.
  • Make your communications modern. Break the “paper first” mentality with a Digital First Send digital financial communications quickly and in the channels (email, text, phone) that most people prefer and use today.

Overall, true personalization is a critical standard for financial communications, both in terms of the payment options you provide and the communication channels you use. According to a study from the University of Texas, personalization makes people feel more in control.

Marketers use emotional strategies to promote their products and build brand loyalty. The healthcare standard should go further to make people feel understood. There’s a lot at stake: In a recent study conducted by RevSpring, more than 50 percent of respondents said the cost of care from a prior visit prevented them from going to see a particular doctor or hospital again.

By taking the guesswork out of billing, and replacing it with empathy, clarity, and personalized payment options that truly fit a patient’s needs, communication choices can transform a lackluster patient financial engagement into an emotionally connected one.