With patients and consumers having higher expectations for their health experiences, payers and providers aren’t fully meeting those standards and struggling to maintain patient loyalty, according to a recent report released by Accenture.

The study noted that the profound rise of consumerism in healthcare has contributed to an increase in patients switching providers or payers.

Thirty percent of patients chose a new provider in 2021, marking a 4% jump from 2017. Meanwhile, 25% of patients did so because they were unhappy, an increase from 18% in 2017.

Because of that shift to consumerism, healthcare leaders can “see a lower tolerance for not having convenience, access, ease of doing business needs met as you may have seen five years ago,” according to Sarah Sinha, managing director and patient experience lead at Accenture. “Those expectations are becoming stronger and stronger drivers of behavior.”

The report also found that the younger generations tend to value better customer service and digital interactions than older people. Millennials were three to four times more likely to place value on customer service and a company’s reputation.

Additionally, up to 50% of patients ended up leaving their payers due to dissatisfaction with their experiences. Factors that played a role in this trend included inconsistent information, difficulties with digital tools and questions left unanswered. Digital engagement also played a role, as people who were more digitally engaged were also more likely to stay with their providers or payers.

But Sinha highlighted ease of navigation or the ease of doing business as one of the main reasons behind a drop in patient loyalty. Patients were nearly twice as likely to leave their providers for ease of navigation — such as an inability to use online services, or how seamless referrals or next steps are — compared to clinical experience or expertise.

Ease of navigation includes “every point of interaction through that healthcare journey — like the pre-appointment process, registering, cost of the appointment, visit and post-visit,” Sinha explained. “Do I know what my care plan and next steps are? Is that next step facilitated for me? How easy is it for me to get through that process?”

For healthcare marketers, Sinha drove the importance of trust — as well as having a deep understanding of what consumers want. Outreach should be tailored to their needs and preferences over how they want to be engaged with, and what channels they prefer.

“Healthcare organizations need to think about resetting the foundation because the capabilities that you need today are fundamentally different than they were 10 years ago,” Sinha said. “We used the phrase in the piece: ‘Resisting the muscle memory of siloed improvements.’ Part of that journey is understanding that you need a holistic foundation replatforming. You can’t just do one of these things well; you have to do well across the board on these major focus areas.”