Leveraging Network Integrity to Achieve Customer Loyalty

Physician referral analytic tools have existed for decades to help health care organizations understand referral patterns, prioritize outreach efforts and monitor progress, and organizations have long considered physician outreach teams as tools to improve leakage and increase revenue. While both of these still hold true today, there is actually more to the story. Leakage from affiliated physicians is a strong indicator of customer loyalty struggles and can illuminate opportunities for improvement to both physician and customer loyalty. Meanwhile, improving physician referral patterns is critical for physician loyalty and a healthy bottom line but can also serve as a foundational strength for customer loyalty strategy. Forward thinking organizations should use physician outreach teams and network optimization tools as part of this broader customer loyalty strategy to improve leakage, understand the causes of patient friction that leads to leakage and coach physician groups on how to create a more cohesive customer experience to drive loyalty.

You may be wondering, but who are my customers? Your patients already have a relationship with you—they utilize care at your organization when they need services. However, your customers choose where they go for services, which means it is important to build loyalty with them to ensure financial success.

Adopting a customer-centric view with your network integrity tools shifts your approach from strictly physician loyalty to include customer growth and keeping more care within your health system. This shift leads to a three-fold win: removing patient friction, building customer loyalty by improving care results and—most importantly today—immediately lifting short-term, as well as long-term, revenue.

Why is health care plagued with so much friction?

The concept of smoothing the patient experience has been ignored for far too long, as health care providers have been slow to recognize patients as customers who have choices. The outdated mentality of “if you build it, they will come” and “patients who need care don’t have a choice” is no longer effective. Friction in health care guarantees a dissatisfying patient experience, which means they will not want to be referred to your organization for more services. Loyalty is reduced, leakage continues and network optimization efforts will fail. Removing friction from the patient journey has become even more crucial post-pandemic due to labor shortages, novel disrupters providing care and declining revenues.

Are you providing the right services, in the right way, to the right customers?

In other industries, companies that offer a superior experience by focusing on removing friction and improving convenience, guidance and access are poised to gain customer loyalty and a larger share of their customers’ wallets. Amazon, for example, only sold books and Kindles once upon a time, but today, they offer services their customers value, like frictionless shopping for a broad spectrum of goods and services through an easy-to-use platform and 24-hour delivery with a Prime Membership. Amazon also takes poor customer experiences very seriously, offering many options to “make it right.” The company’s success can be attributed to its relentless focus on customer need, building a strong and loyal base.

Imagine an Amazon health care experience: a system where you receive health care in an ecosystem that delivers the guidance and access to care you need today and seamlessly connects you to the care you need tomorrow. With a health care experience like this, why would you go anywhere else for your health care needs?

In the past, health care organizations measured success through market expansion, but in the future, success will be defined by customer loyalty. This shift in the health care industry is driven by the need for organizations to:

  • Navigate unrelenting financial pressures. Health care organizations have traditionally focused on long-term strategy and growth. Now, they need to focus on immediate revenue lift and long-term revenue growth to drive top-line performance. The COVID-19 pandemic exposed vulnerabilities in the health care industry, including a reliance on the commercial market and financially favorable procedures to fund operations. This only serves to highlight the need for organizations to diversify revenue streams, engage the health care consumer and chart a new course for sustainable performance.
  • Defend against novel disrupters stealing market share and win with a customer loyalty strategy. There are new, nontraditional disrupters entering the health care space, and they have identified the health care consumer as their priority for growth. Incentivized by acquiring consumers primed to utilize their care services, novel disrupters such as CVS, Walmart and Amazon—who have always capitalized on customer-centric strategy for growth—put traditional health care organizations at risk of losing market share. Time is of the essence: a customer loyalty strategy is essential for growth in the health care industry.
  • Respond to evolved consumer expectations. The rise of these novel disrupters and the transformation of the ambulatory landscape have led to an evolution of consumer health care expectations. As mentioned above, your customers are shopping for health care experiences; they want convenience, cost-effectiveness and access, and health care organizations need to provide a seamless and personalized experience to meet these expectations. Health care organizations must optimize their customers’ experience with high-tech and high-touch guidance.

Statistics on what consumers expect from health care experiences, represented with illustrated icons

Shifting your mindset from “liaison” tools to “loyalty” tools

The idea of using physician outreach and liaison tools as part of a broader customer loyalty strategy may feel disjointed, but they are just as critical to the strategy as your physicians are. Understanding and improving referral patterns has an immediate impact on both your revenue and your customers. Physicians who refer patients to affiliated practitioners are telling their patients not only that they trust these physicians, but also that they trust their organization to provide the best care. As customer loyalty develops, so does customer stickiness.

It is also critical for organizations to fully understand the relationship between leakage and loyalty, as they are actually two sides of the same coin. Physician outreach teams use network optimization tools to understand leakage patterns by specialty and physician groups, but even deeper insights can be gained. Organizations can also use these tools to understand which pockets of patients are seeking care from competitors. Once you understand “who” is not loyal, you can use these insights to better appreciate “why,” and, from there, develop your customer loyalty strategy.

Introducing Sg2 Consumer Innovation solutions

In today’s health care environment, organizations must reorient their growth strategies to include a customer-centric approach that enhances the consumer experience and fosters loyalty. That’s why Sg2 is strategically and purposely investing in consumer innovation analytics and consulting offerings to unlock your organization’s latent potential to meet customers on their terms (ie, removing barriers, delivering value) and embrace modern consumer engagement practices to drive more patients—and more right-fit patients—through your existing footprint in the short term, increasing value for all.

The Sg2 Consumer Innovation suite is composed of analytic tools and consulting services that focus on three key areas that affect the total health care consumer experience and are the essential building blocks for crafting a customer loyalty strategy that can ultimately help drive near-term revenue generation through rapid impact growth.

Maximizing physician outreach efforts to achieve both physician and customer loyalty. Creating strong physician advocates for your system provides a seamless and cohesive experience with better health outcomes, stronger loyalty over time and increased revenue. Physicians and outreach teams are your partners here! Join forces to improve physician network integrity and build customer loyalty in the short- and long-term. Do you know which providers are sending the most referrals out of your health system? Understanding and improving physician referral patterns is critical to success, and reducing patient leakage from your system is a win-win-win:

  • Patients win when they utilize a customer-centric health system that provides all care when, where and how they want to receive it, resulting in a superior experience and customer loyalty.
  • Providers win when their patients can access the care they need, without barriers and pain points, driving physician loyalty.
  • Health systems win when they achieve customer loyalty and more share of wallet, achieving both near- and long-term revenue growth.

Sg2’s newest analytic tool, Provider Connections, is the data engine behind our full physician relationship management (PRM) solution that helps your organization optimize your physician network and drive physician engagement and loyalty through insights into your market’s referral patterns. This tool is the foundation of a successful physician loyalty initiative and can help your organization uncover its greatest areas of opportunity to grow volumes and gain revenue lift.

Removing access and capacity barriers. Identifying the challenges related to access and throughput barriers can drive near-term gains. If patients face difficulties in scheduling appointments or accessing timely care in a manner they prefer, their overall experience is negatively impacted, and loyalty is not established. Analyzing these barriers and homing in on scheduling and access improvements can lead to quick wins. Assessing bottlenecks in key specialties and providers can reveal areas of improvement across all service lines. Our partnered solution with Tiller-Hewitt HealthCare Strategies combines robust methodologies proven to assess, design and execute a high-performance, rapid impact solution to improve access and drive network optimization, physician engagement, patient retention and strategic growth.

Optimizing the customer experience. Providing care in the way your customers want to receive it. This requires both high touch and high tech, with an understanding of what your customers value most from your organization. This does not mean you need to make everything digital and accessible via cell phone; it means you should take advantage of digital transformation, while also offering human touch points to guide your customers through their care journey. They may want to schedule an appointment on their phone app but have a personal question about their health journey. Do you have the necessary infrastructure to accommodate both? Are your customers aware of how to navigate their care journey at your organization? Do you offer services the way your customers want to receive them?

Sg2 has partnered with ShareMD Connect for a solution that offers digital outreach and an engagement platform for nurse-led education and navigation efforts to not only enhance the health care consumer experience, but also to empower physicians to deliver care more efficiently and effectively.

Customer loyalty rapidly impacts your organization’s growth

Overlapping circles representing how access, physician outreach and consumer-centric approaches can rapidly impact growth

Strategically combining the above three customer-centric efforts together for a better customer experience can help foster better customer loyalty, which, in turn, can lead to rapid impact growth, helping your organization compete to drive top-line, near-term revenue from both an offensive and defensive mindset.

Start building your customer loyalty strategy

Our Consumer Innovation solutions will help providers shift their competitive advantage to become more consumer focused and retail ready, as well as create a financially sustainable health system. In today’s rapidly changing environment, customer centricity is critical for success, and building customer loyalty begins with keeping them in your health care organization for all their care. Network integrity tools, which were once considered essential for driving physician loyalty, are now even more crucial as they also impact customer loyalty. A successful customer strategy should aim to cultivate strong relationships that guide customers through their health journey, provide a frictionless customer experience and boost short- and long-term revenue.

If you are interested in learning more about our Consumer Innovation solutions, please contact us at or 847.779.5500.

  • Share
  • Follow Sg2 on Twitter
  • Connect with Sg2 on LinkedIn

Tags: , , , , , ,