The simple truth is that Americans are unhappy with the healthcare system. In this era of consolidating mega-systems, Prophet’s recent research found that the industry needs to address problems with the current patient experience. And we found that these problems are especially pronounced among Hispanic consumers.
The largest problem our study uncovered is that the Hispanic patient experience delivered is misaligned with their overall needs, attitudes, and lifestyles. Twenty-eight percent of Hispanics say they often need help navigating their healthcare options, versus 18% of the overall sample of 3,000 consumers.
Hispanics are significantly more likely to describe the process of buying health insurance as “extremely” frustrating. They say the options available to them are inconvenient. And they’re more apt to feel that healthcare professionals don’t take the time to understand their needs.
So what do Hispanic patients want? More than other patient groups, they want a deeper, ongoing relationship with caregivers. They want convenience, but they also want to be more than a number.
Organizations that offer Hispanic patients these critical elements — warm and personalized relationships, easy-to-understand products and options, and service that shows an understanding of their family lives — will prosper. Prophet’s study found that Hispanic consumers, despite having a lower income, are willing to pay more for better care, such as a guarantee that they can see their doctor of choice.
With that in mind, here are three ways to win over Hispanic patients:
1. Make care so personal, it’s intimate. While it can be costly, organizations that build patient-centric care teams are creating significant gains not just in satisfaction, but also in health outcomes. While those programs can be hard to scale for larger systems, a more affordable approach is using a promotora, a layperson with specialized training. These community healthcare workers bridge the gap between individuals and the healthcare system and drive positive health behaviors through interpersonal connections. A study that tracked their effectiveness in central California found that patients who had worked with promotoras were much more confident in talking to their doctors and better able to ask important questions.
2. Tap into culture and tradition. Part of getting personal means speaking to Hispanic patients in their language — literally. That requires making sure there are plenty of Spanish-speaking staff, marketing materials, and phone options, but it also means acknowledging divergent cultural details. A fun example is the fotonovela, an old-fashioned but still popular medium in many Hispanic countries. Organizations from the Rural Women’s Health Project to the National Institutes of Health’s National Diabetes Education Program have used the format — picture a comic book, but with photos — in ways that are educational, informative, and culturally on-point.
3. Design patient experience with convenience in mind: Think through the customer-experience journey from the perspective of entire families. Are waiting rooms kid-friendly? Does parking accommodate baby strollers and grandparents walking with canes? Is care available outside normal working hours? There are opportunities to engage Hispanics by offering services that may seem outside the usual health-and-wellness box. Some pediatricians, for example, provide information and resources about school readiness. Similarly, many general practitioners act as community clearinghouses for exercise programs, area support groups, and even find-a-workout-buddy initiatives.
By creating more personal relationships with providers, helping navigate the healthcare system, and designing care that meets the needs of the Hispanic population, providers and payers can improve the patient experience and create long-lasting relationships with this community.
Jeff Gourdji (left) and Jorge Aguilar are partners at Prophet.