How Speaking to Emotional Needs can Improve the Patient Experience


Gallup Research shows that 2/3 of decisions are made by emotional as well as rational factors. And when it comes to people’s health, I think it’s safe to say that percentage probably goes up. There is nothing more emotional or close to our hearts than our health.

Not only is the healthcare industry rapidly evolving, the patient mindset is evolving. Now more than ever, we want to do business with organizations that share our values. We expect companies (including health providers) to fill a deeper need in our lives, a more psychological need. The way we make decisions is changing. With more options at our fingertips, we are gathering information differently. The way we choose our doctors is also changing. We trust word of mouth and reviews from friends and family over any other source. As social media guru Gary V. aptly puts it, “Your brand is no longer what you say it is; it’s what people tell each other it is.”

In healthcare, values are often synonymous with ethics. Values, however, are much wider than just a narrow view of ethical principles; values cover anything that is valued – they are used to weigh evidence in order to reach a decision and choose a particular action.

Sackett defines values in healthcare marketing as “The unique preferences, concerns, and expectations each patient brings to a clinical encounter.” The challenge with people bringing their expectations into a clinical setting is that there’s often a gap between patient expectations and realities. When you envision yourself going to a doctor, you imagine walking out feeling calm, reassured, confident and pain free. There is something aspirational about the experience. Unfortunately, the reality is oftentimes scary, confusing, impersonal and painful. Because of this, we often leave without inner needs and desires being fulfilled.

To create a more positive experience for patients, healthcare organizations need to start going deeper and understanding the psychological drivers of patient behavior. What are the values, attitudes and beliefs that guide their decision-making? Understanding these values and personalizing the patient experience to meet those needs can have a huge impact on the bottom line.

When it comes to healthcare, knowing patient values can determine:
• Where individuals go to find a provider
• How they choose one
• What communications style they prefer
• What messages resound best with them
• How they perceive specific providers and options
• What types of treatment they are most likely to pursue
• How they can be effectively encouraged to follow through with treatment and improve success rates
• Whether or not they will recommend or stay with a provider

So how do you gain an understanding of these deeper drivers of behavior? Although you are probably collecting a wealth of data on your patients, you may not be asking the right questions to uncover their psychological motivation. To start gaining an understanding of customers’ values and preferences, here are a few factors to consider:

• What types of content are people sharing online (helping others versus personal branding?)
• What topics are they sharing about (entertainment vs. charitable?)
• How open are they to new experiences (trying new restaurants, activities vs. maintaining routine?)
• What’s their personality (introverted versus extroverted, analytical versus easygoing?)
• How progressive are they (innovative versus status quo?)
• Who are the focused on (family versus friends versus self?)

Improving the patient experience starts with knowing more about people and communicating in a more personal way. Not only does this build trust and loyalty between patients and providers, it has many other benefits. Better communication is central to overall satisfaction with care, promotes emotional and physical health, adherence to treatment plans and overall outcomes.

In a nutshell, speaking to patient values = better quality of care and higher profits. What’s not to love about that equation?

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