Inquirers aren’t being looked after

LaingBuisson private acute healthcare conference

Private healthcare providers are losing thousands of potential patients because they fail to turn inquiries about treatment into firm bookings.

But a variety of speakers at the LaingBuisson private acute healthcare conference indicated more could often be done to prevent people from turning away and to transform queries into business.

Liz Heath

According to self-pay expert Liz Heath, research by one leading international provider suggested there were potentially up to 16 points in the patient journey where the patient could be ‘lost’, many even before they saw a doctor.

Improving the efficiency of the journey from a phone call to treatment is seen as vital by marketing advisers.

Leander de Laporte, co-founder and chief executive of patient experience researchers Medbelle, told the meeting that for the industry to grow the market, it needed to make information readily available to inquirers. 

While a perfect personalised service for every patient was not possible, people could be given various solutions to make bookings and information easily accessible.

It was about making the patient journey ‘extremely smooth’, which meant  integrating all the stakeholders and getting information back quickly so that a decision was made to go for private care.

Mr de Laporte revealed Medbelle research showing most inquiries were explorative and had low booking intent. As many as 51% did not subsequently engage.

One in ten were put off by the cost – although once a consultation was booked, the cost factor became a little less relevant. 

Four per cent dropped out due to their experience and 5% went with the NHS. 


Improve patient’s journey

He said there was a strong potential for providers to improve the various steps across the patient journey to make it quicker and nicer.

But Mr de Laporte cautioned that even with his company’s support, there were still those patients who would not go ahead because they did not consider their experience perfect.

Among the patient experience difficulties cited at the conference was a huge variation in ways to book an appointment. One private hospital group was said to have as many as 84.

Another contributor criticised a ‘disjoint’ between hospitals and consultants, something she had not observed where the doctors were on a salaried contract. 

Keith Hague

Keith Hague, former boss of The Wellington who helped set up Cleveland Clinic London, said he heard private medical insurers say they wanted to become more of a partner with patients, but added: ‘It’s a long time happening.’

Speaking from the audience, he said: ‘I can tell you, when you are a patient, there’s only one thing that matters and that’s the consultant – the person that’s going to do that complex operation.

‘It’s not so much the hospital; it’s definitely not the insurer; it’s the actual guy that’s going to cut you open.’

The UK’s private health sector was also criticised for failing to do a good enough job of managing patients after they have left hospital.

Medical travel consultant Keith Pollard said people who might be seen here were targeted by providers overseas – including one clinic in Lithuania where 80% of patients having a knee of hip replacement are British.

A patient who had a knee replacement here could be followed up later in case the other knee needed doing.

But he said he had experienced this operation himself and had heard nothing back afterwards from the provider. Now he had yet to decide where he would go for his other knee.