Health System Loyalty Programs: An Innovation in Customer Care and Service

This article discusses the potential opportunities and benefits for patient care loyalty programs within healthcare organizations. Loyalty programs for commercial businesses have proved successful at promoting customer retention, encouraging positive customer attitudes, and increasing referrals to others. This consumer-driven approach of customer care could be translated to patient care in health care systems, but this is not a common occurrence. Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs), in which patients are free to move among health care centers and physicians, see a high turnover of patients. Several studies have shown a range of 38 – 60% patient turnover rate each year in certain ACOs. This article proposed the introduction of a loyalty programs within an ACO will help with patient retention and overall satisfaction. Potential aspects of patient loyalty program include benefits to loyal members such as parking vouchers, cab and bus vouchers, and cafeteria discounts. Benefits could be customized for patient’s personal care needs, such as customized messages for certain disease states or healthy eating coupons.

This loyalty program model would offer three key benefits. First, greater likelihood for patient allegiance would allow for more comprehensive care, and cost and outcome management. This would benefit both patients and health care organizations. Second, it offers potential improvement in patient-satisfaction scores for reimbursement purposes. Third, tailoring of patient-centered care plans would promote a holistic population health model over a traditional hospital-centric model of care. In order to avoid abuse of the healthcare system as a result of loyalty programs, member rewards should be based on length and strength of loyalty rather than frequency of use. Overall, by involving patients in their own health management, and improving the business aspect of health systems, health care loyalty programs carry many potential benefits.

I feel that promoting patient retention is a key benefit of this type of loyalty program. Patients are much more likely to experience a continuity of care when they stay within a certain healthcare network and all parts are affiliated with one another. Do you think a health system loyalty program could be successful? What potential drawbacks does something like this present?

McMahon, L., Tipirneni, R., Chopra, V. Health System Loyalty Programs: An Innovation in Customer Care and Service. JAMA. 2016;315:863-864. doi:10.1001/jama.2015.19463.