May 16, 2023

Empathy Builds Patient Trust and Loyalty

Cultivating loyalty in healthcare delivers big benefits, including a more consistent patient experience and better financial health for providers. When patients feel loyal they are more likely to make and keep appointments, pay their bills on time and even recommend their provider to others.

How do providers cultivate patient loyalty? It begins with empathy, which means understanding patients and consistently delivering on their expectations. It also means tuning into patients’ specific financial circumstances. This makes it possible to offer ways for patients to best meet their financial obligations, such as with a discount for paying on time or through a tailored payment plan.

Another aspect of understanding patients centers around knowing how they want to communicate, and then engaging with them accordingly. Engagement preferences vary depending upon the type of communication, such as appointment reminders, post-care instructions and billing statements. For example, patients who prefer printed bills also may want to receive text appointment messages and email for post-care instructions.

There is no one size fits all in patient communication. When providers accept this key principle, and then find ways to treat patients as individuals, the foundation is laid for empathetic engagement that builds trust and loyalty.

Empathy Requires Action

RevSpring’s 2023 Voice of the Patient survey, which involved 1,000 people across the country, finds that there are gaps between what patients say they want and what they experience in healthcare. Patients are least satisfied with completing paperwork and forms (73%) and the check-in process (57%). Top reasons for their dissatisfaction include: inability to find information (32%), uncertainty about whom to call with questions (29%) and lack of self-service options (23%).

Empathy in healthcare means much more than lending a sympathetic ear to a patient who may be suffering or worried (although that is important too). Empathizing with patients must include providing convenient self-service options, such as appointment scheduling and digital payments. Making it easy for patients to get answers also is key.

How providers behave is what communicates genuine empathy. When patients perceive your empathy in action they feel known and respected, which is the foundation of their trust. Empathy—informed by data, analytics and feedback—must drive the patient experience to ensure it aligns with the specific needs and preferences of each patient at every stage of their journey.

Education is another key to building patient loyalty. Patients should be educated about the payment and communications options you offer, such as email and text reminders for appointments, online payment portals and text-to-pay links. Let them choose—and use data to watch how they behave—and then ensure every department in your healthcare system acts in concert. System-wide digital consent is crucial to ensuring consistent engagement through every aspect of the patient experience.

Patients want their preferences honored—87% said it’s somewhat or very important for providers to follow their preferred communication channels. Not honoring their preferences can erode trust. To see this more positively: 4 out of 5 respondents said they would be more likely to trust their providers if they communicate using patients’ preferred methods.

Empathy is showing patients that you care about their needs and preferences. It begins with asking patients what they prefer and using combined intelligence, such as demographic and behavioral data, to understand patients at scale. Doing so will allow you to build trust and loyalty, and to drive desired actions critical for the health of your business.