Health Care Consumer
Health care consumer refers to the recipients of healthcare be it the actual patient or any potential client who visits a hospital in search of health care facilities and services which is catered for by a prepaid health care maintenance organization. Over the years, there have been controversial debates surrounding the role of professionalism, the consumer and market where the health care services are offered, as well as, bought. Recent research has shown that the health care sector has been organized in such a way that medical professionals benefit more than the consumers. This has led to increased controversy on which is the most significant aspect of health care consumer; consumer loyalty or consumer satisfaction.
Definition of terms
Customer loyalty in health care is term that refers to increased consumption or utilization of services and facilities provided by a specific health care center. It is used as a strategy by health care management to retain clients such that in times when there is low cash flow the loyal consumers can turn up though they may not be necessarily unwell. Customer loyalty as a health care marketing strategy allows the consumers to have the unique feeling of belonging such that some of the patients are known to refer they favorite health care facility as their own due to the loyalty derived from services provided by the entire facility. Customer loyalty results in consistent visitation of patients into particular health care facilities as opposed to others due to number of reasons which makes them more inclined to the one place they are used (Fortenberry, 2010).
Costumer satisfaction is a term used in marketing where the service or product provider seeks to understand whether the client has been provided with the right amount of help they were seeking and if the measure was at per. Customer satisfaction is a very complex issue in marketing especially due to diverse needs of various customers hence the marketer or provider has to ensure that the different tastes are catered for to achieve customer satisfaction. Customer satisfaction just like loyalty enables a business to stay afloat during the dry spells as consumers will be coming over due to the satisfaction derived from the health care facility. Consumers are always satisfied by being provided with products or services which meet their needs accordingly hence the provider has to get personalized products which will be specific to consumer demands thus maintaining customer satisfaction (Cooper, 1994).
Health care customer satisfaction and loyalty; consumers versus providers
Recent research has shown that today more people are better informed about health care products and services than in the last five years. This is mainly attributed to the fact that most health care products and services are always posted on the specific websites of the companies operating them hence are easily accessed by the public. Consequently, information on the performance of the company, as well as, the response of consumers to the services and products is also available to the public. This has been a major cause for increased demand for personalized health care products as the expectations of the public towards the products being availed is elevated by their higher levels of being knowledgeable (Sergeant and Wymer, 2008).
This has been a major challenge to the health care industry as the consumers are not only after high quality healthcare products but also a place where all their demands will be met as per their expectations. Therefore, the industry has to style up their products and services as a way of gaining, as well as, retaining their share of the market. This is attained by packaging products in such a way that they meet the demand of clients or exceed the expectations hence assuring them of a slot in the market (Fortenberry, 2010).
However, regardless of the entire information and products that are readily accessible to the public, the price and quality of the entire visit to a doctor are not guaranteed. This is hampered by the fact that the nature of medication or treatment that is provided to a patient is determined by the package of the treatment procedures. Therefore, for health care providers to deliver products which are beneficial to consumers, there has to exist a larger element of customer loyalty and satisfaction as even the emotional status of an individual contributes a lot to their ability to get well. This is made possible by maintaining equilibrium between the quality that is demanded and the quality that is supplied (Berkowitz, 2002).
To increase consumer satisfaction and loyalty, the health care providers should standardize the products by elevating the degree of affordability and minimizing the cost. This is a strategy used by marketers to ensure that the customers are comfortable with the services or products being offered hence they will be at liberty to pick out the best for their situation. Customer loyalty as a strategy that is used to market products results in better results especially when more effort is laid on the retention of clients other than seeking new ones. This is because it is quite challenging to retain the clients who are used to the product rather than trying to entice customers who have no idea regarding the product (Sergeant, 2008).
Health care insurance schemes
Health care insurance companies have been on the forefront of health care marketing where they have engaged consumers in consumer driven health care (CDHC). This is a form of health care marketing that encourages members to purchase health care insurance policies through their personal savings. Such a product allows them to pay for their health care expenses directly while catastrophic medical expenses are paid through high-deductible health insurance policies. The high-deductible policies are cheap hence less medical expenses will be incurred by the individual (Brezis, 2008).
Other benefits derived from this plan are that the owner of the policy is able to control the amount of money they submit to the scheme, as well as, the amount spent in case of any incidence. Similarly, the consumers are given an option of seeking more information on the cost of treatment or medication hence they can chose the less costly one as per the wishes or the amount that has been paid to the insurance scheme (Cooper, 1994).
However, this health care policy has been the topic of most controversial debates due to the argument that it is not consumer driven. Actually the main beneficiaries of this scheme are the employers who do not have to shoulder their employee’s medical expenses as each individual pays for their own expenses. Therefore, the category of income earners who could be gaining substantially from the scheme is those in the high income bracket who are able to engage more directly in the health care purchases.
The Health Reimbursement Arrangements (HRA) is the employee-funded health care policy which is provided by employers. However, most employees are still reluctant to seek highly priced medicare though they are not guaranteed of high quality hence exposing them to more health risks. Consequently, the consumer-driven health care plan has been branded a failure by the low income earners, as well as, the less educated who are not in a position to question some of the attributes of the policy (Brezis, 2008).
Therefore, the customer satisfaction is not attained as the health care insurance product does not meet the expectations of the customer. The fact that the policy benefits a particular group of persons only results in divergent views concerning the essence of availing a product for a certain category of people only. Similarly, the loyalty of customers to the products is diminished due to the fact that no real benefits are attained from the policy which reduces any hopes which may have been instilled on the customers. This causes a huge disparity on the entire health care marketing due to promises of products and vigorous advertising on the same while the quality or relevance of the policy is undermined thus no need to seek the services or be loyal to the scheme.
Consequently, it becomes difficult to measure the quality of health care provided in relation to the degree of customer satisfaction or loyalty as some of the clients consistently visit specific health care facilities due to lack of another better choice which is affordable. Thus the quality of products provided is portrayed as not customized or personalized as they do not meet the expectations of the consumer (Kimball, Michaeline and David 2009).
Customer loyalty as the most important aspect of health care consumer
Customer loyalty has gained tremendous support as a key concept of health care marketing. This is primarily due to the extent to which customer loyalty has affected networking and referrals such that most of the new clients buying health care products or accessing the services are always prompted by others who have subsequently received the same products. Similarly, this customer loyalty is brought about by being satisfied thus there is increased confidence when a loyal customer who was satisfied by the services or products of a certain health care procedure refers others to the same (Kimball, 2009).
Health care marketing as a phenomenon in health care consumer has been depicted as a complex scenario that is aimed at benefiting the clients, as well as, the health care providers. The insurance industry has been one field where health care marketing has gained considerable airplay as more people are striving to understand various ways through which they can avail finances to cater for their medical needs comfortably. This schemes or policies are further on enhanced by incorporation of customer loyalty and satisfaction techniques that determine the reception of the policy.
Berkowitz, E.N. (2002), the essentials of health care marketing. 2nd ed. Jones & Bartlett
Brezis M (2008). "Big pharmaceutical and health care: unsolvable conflict of interests between private enterprise and public health".
Isr J Psychiatry Relat Sci vol. 45 (2): pp. 83–9; discussion 90–4
Cooper, P.D. (1994), Health care marketing: a foundation for managed quality. Jones & Bartlett Learning
Fortenberry, J.L. (2010), Health Care Marketing: Tools and Techniques. Jones & Bartlett Learning
Kimball P. M., Michaeline S. and David P. P. (2009), the need for a social marketing perspective of consumer-driven health care
International Journal of Pharmaceutical and Health Care Marketing. Vol. 3, Iss. 3. pp. 236 – 257
Sergeant, A. and Wymer, W.W. (2008), The Routledge companion to nonprofit marketing. Routledge.