So much of the human experience is built around relationships. Family units, loved ones, friends, colleagues, local communities, and others we interact with on a regular basis (like the barista down the street) are the fiber of our outward experience in the world. Without relationships, we begin to function differently and suffer. The current pandemic has highlighted the negative impact of social isolation as millions of Americans feel it more acutely than ever before. Simply put, relationships are fundamental to our health and survival.
Trust goes hand-in-hand with relationships. If you think about people you trust the most, odds are you have a long-established relationship with them. They’ve demonstrated over time that they can be trusted and are reliable. Once established, trust helps us bypass a lot of analysis and consideration when given advice or taught something. We more quickly internalize and implement recommendations and processes when they come from someone we trust, which is immensely valuable. Don’t believe me? Ask your mother.
How do relationships impact quality healthcare?
Just like any other community, it’s crucial that healthcare organizations build and maintain positive relationships with their consumers. Consumers rely on trusted relationships to help them make decisions on their care. A 2017 Oliver Wyman study showed that US healthcare consumers are more likely to consult close friends and family on whether to seek healthcare treatment than they are to ask their providers. Health insurers ranked dead last. When consumers feel like they have a positive, trusting relationship with their health plan, provider(s), or other organization, the barriers to sharing information, activating them in health behaviors, seeking appropriate care, and ultimately taking any action all shrink. The strength and sentiment of the relationship between each healthcare organization and their individual consumers is a key indicator of how effectively the organization can impact each consumer’s life and quality of care. Additionally, happy consumers make a direct impact on CAHPS scores and Star ratings.
It may be no surprise that relationships take time and investment to build. You probably can’t walk up to a random stranger on the street and ask for a ride to the airport. But you probably have friends or family that would be willing to take you. In part, it’s because they know you will be there when they need you, too. You have been there before; you will be there again. So how do you create this same feeling and dependability between your organization and your consumers?
Start now. Build meaningful connections with your consumers. Build trust with your consumers. Begin that positive relationship. Ask them questions in your outreach, and listen to their answers, either through staff or with technology like Natural Language Understanding (NLU). If you feel like you already have a strong relationship with your consumers, then make sure you are nurturing that relationship. The more they trust and rely on you, the more they will heed your advice or take the action you recommend. You cannot wait until the moment you need them to do something to start engaging them because consumers don’t see their relationship with you as a series of campaigns. It needs to be an ongoing, two-way relationship to create the best health and business outcomes.
Some great examples of this challenge can be found in COVID-19 outreach. Many organizations increased the amount and type of consumer outreach to inform them about rapid changes to policies, benefits, care instructions, and a lot of other information as things rapidly changed. In some instances, consumers were confused. This type of outreach and interaction was new. It felt like it came out of nowhere. If they had a stronger relationship with the organization communicating with them, and if communication like this was more typical, they would likely be more receptive and trusting.
Takeaway: start building valuable relationships now so they are there when you need them.
mPulse prides itself on helping healthcare organizations communicate with their members with the content they need through the channels they prefer. If you would like to learn more about how we can help you connect more deeply with your consumers, please contact us.