How to Embrace and Optimize Three Patient Consumer Habits Affecting Your Weight Loss Practice
— By Karol Clark, MSN, RN
Shifts in expectations are affecting consumer decisions in nearly every industry, including health care. This is especially true when it comes to weight loss and wellness. Three particular patient consumer habits have taken hold that, when embraced and optimized, can positively affect the future of your weight loss practice.
While you may have always believed change is constant, it seems as if this has never been truer than at the present time. Change is affecting large and small businesses alike in hopeful as well as challenging ways. Identifying significant patient consumer trends and responding proactively can create new opportunities and positive outcomes for your practice and your patients.
Experts believe health care consumers have reached a tipping point and are becoming much more active regarding where they go for health care, what they want and what they are willing to pay for.1 You and your team have likely experienced this firsthand in your weight loss practice. As a result, new patient consumer behaviors and habits (somewhat hastened by the pandemic) have emerged. Three habits that directly affect weight loss and wellness are outlined below including actionable ways to embrace and optimize them in your weight loss practice.
1. Online Authority Research
Patients know they have a choice — which is a great thing! Immediate access to information on the internet has empowered patients interested in losing weight to do a great deal of research prior to selecting a provider or program. It has also provided them with information for many other non-medically based program and product choices. While this is a great technological advancement, the many choices can be confusing and may add to future skepticism after having a poor experience before visiting your weight loss practice.
An important part of a patient’s investigative process usually involves an online review search and visits to your website and social media channels. In fact, studies show that anywhere from 71 percent to 81 percent of patients consider online reviews their very first step when selecting a health care provider.2,3
It can be frustrating when you are an expert in your field with outstanding patient outcomes and yet, patients challenge your recommendations or select another non-scientific, trendy, or better-marketed program or product. However, this is exactly why you need to embrace and optimize the same technology so you can effectively reach and make a greater impact on the health of those you desire to serve most. You can do this in a variety of ways such as:
- Own your authority online by addressing the top concerns of your patients through your favorite communication methods (video, audio and/or written blog or book/e-book) on your social media channels or as a guest on someone else’s platform. It has never been easier or more affordable to create and leverage such educational assets. You have the answers patients are searching for online, so it is important to share this information along with how they can reach out to you and your team for more information or to get started.
- Optimize your posts and website with the keywords your patients are searching for as well as consistently creating links back to your website.
- Cultivate and streamline obtaining more online patient reviews and testimonials. Respond to all online reviews (both positive and negative). Thank those that post positive reviews and acknowledge any concerns in a positive and constructive manner being sure not to violate any HIPAA laws.
- Show your personality and have fun! Involve your team and be consistent with your efforts. If you know your patients well and approach all of your online communication with a serving mindset, you will find it easier to attract and engage your ideal patients.
2. Demand for Convenience (Along with Willingness to Pay for It)
Patients may not always know what they need, but they do know what they want! They want great results in the most convenient manner possible. This applies to nearly every aspect of their care such as: digitally consolidated health care information, ease of quick communication (text, e-mail, phone, digital online messaging), virtual and in-person options for care, ability for online ordering and payment for products, ability to pick up products in your office or have them shipped, concierge-style care showing compassion for their individualized needs, clear communication of cost and convenience for payment.
Consumers are often willing to pay for what they desire despite higher co-pays, deductibles and premiums. A 2021 study showed consumers expressed an average willingness to pay $400 to $600 per year for such services.1 You can accommodate such convenience demands in a variety of ways such as:
- Integrating your electronic health record, online patient portal, virtual visits, payment processing and patient communication in one easy-to-use platform. If you find your point of sale application and/or patient apps for tracking and nutrition sales cannot be integrated easily, you can provide quick links for them to access them.
- Regularly ask your patients what they desire that you do not offer. They will usually be very open about this and share great feedback. Also involve your team who know firsthand what would streamline operations in your practice, improve efficiency, and improve the patient’s experience.
- Don’t be afraid to integrate complementary services and products. This is a great way to infuse additional revenue streams while simplifying life for your patients with one stop shopping.
3. Focus on Optimal Holistic Health
If there is one thing that the pandemic did to help the weight loss and wellness industry, it shed a bright light onto the link between obesity and the many (potentially life threatening) associated health risks. The pandemic also (unfortunately) resulted in weight gain for many people who now want to shed those extra unhealthy pounds. In addition, it created more of a demand for self-care and holistic health while loving and respecting yourself at every phase of your weight continuum.
It has been shown that 50 percent of consumers are dissatisfied with weight management and over 40 percent are dissatisfied with managing both exercise and diet/nutrition.1 This opens a window for providing expanded services to better serve patients seeking weight loss and a healthier life. Here are a few ways to make this happen:
- Understand that holistic health is basically a comprehensive and personalized way of thinking about wellness. You are caring for the whole person, which is integral to weight management since many factors impact success such as sleep, stress, hydration, activity, mindfulness, hormones, macronutrients and more.
- Integrate holistic practices into your program such as quality nutrition, social well-being, physical wellness, meditation, behavior modification and exercise.
- Support best practices for holistic health for yourself and your team as well. Perhaps organize a presentation or retreat that promotes work/life balance, stress management, meditation, fitness and laughter. This can also help with overall team retention and demonstrates your desire to support their physical and emotional health.
As you know, while the ‘good old days’ may have served you well, past practices will not prepare you and your team for the future. It is important to embrace these data driven trends along with whatever proposed proactive actions will work for you and your weight loss practice to better ensure future stability and growth.
- https://www.health caredive.com/press-release/20210819-study-of-online-reviews-reveals-the-importance-of-having-high-star-ratings/