ANN ARBOR — ForeSee, the global leader in customer experience analytics, Wednesday released its annual healthcare satisfaction benchmark that shows the strong link between customer satisfaction and its impact on future behaviors for healthcare customers and patients.

The benchmark research is based on more than 106,000 survey responses from health information, hospital and health systems, and health insurance Web site visitors during the months of August and September.

Using its technology-driven methodology, ForeSee is able to scientifically calculate satisfaction scores for each measured company. The scores are then averaged so that clients can compare themselves against a meaningful standard that represents their peers, while individual websites’ scores remain confidential.

“Healthcare executives have the difficult job of providing quality healthcare and information while reducing expenses, increasing revenue, and communicating effectively with customers,” said Larry Freed, president and CEO of ForeSee. “The online channel is proving to be a powerful tool they can use to reach these goals, because it provides the customer with better and more information at a lower cost without jeopardizing the quality of service. The wide range of scores throughout this benchmark, however, indicates that while a few healthcare companies excel at providing great customer experiences, there are several that have a lot of room to improve in this area.”

The average satisfaction scores of individual healthcare company websites represent a broad range, 33 to 88, on ForeSee’s 100-point scale. For companies to compare more accurately with their peers, ForeSee categorizes the 90-plus measured companies into three distinct groups: Health Information, which includes public sector, private sector, and products subcategories; Hospitals and Health Systems; and Health Insurance.

“Our research demonstrates that companies that make the online customer experience a priority will enjoy a huge competitive advantage because of the strong link between customer satisfaction and financial success,” Freed said. “What we see here in the benchmark this year is health information and the hospitals and health system categories surfacing at the top because they appear to be providing the information and overall experiences their customers expect and want.”

Health Information Sites

The aggregate satisfaction score for all 58 measured health information sites is a 77, a one-point decrease from 2011. Individual Web site scores range from 48 to 88. Subcategories of this group include public sector health information Web sites, private sector health information Web sites, and health product information Web sites.

It is critical that healthcare companies measure the online experience of their customers and patients, because research clearly shows that when satisfaction scores rise, there are measurable increases in site visitors’ future behaviors, such as likelihood to return to a Web site, recommend it to others, and use it as a primary resource instead of more expensive channels such as a contact center or office location.

Based on likelihood scores, when highly satisfied visitors to healthcare information Web sites are compared to visitors who were dissatisfied, they report being:
* 145 percent more likely to return to the site;
* 155 percent more likely to recommend the site to others; and
* 137 percent more likely to use the site as their primary resource.

The 19 measured Health Product sites in this category recorded an aggregate satisfaction score of 75 (individual websites range from 60 to 84), which is also a one-point drop from a year ago. This category includes Web sites like Alcon, 1800Contacts, and Bausch & Lomb, along with many others.

“Health product Web sites tend to be more informational than some of the other sites in these benchmarks,” Freed said. “Companies in this category share general product information on such things as contact lenses, medical supplies, and dosage information for some of the more popular over-the-counter medications. Having this information available online provides a huge cost-savings measures for the companies by deferring many common customer questions and engagement from more costly channels such as offices and contact centers.”

The aggregate score for health information sites in the Public Sector remained at 78 (range from 70 to 88) for the third consecutive year and includes 34 Web sites, such as the Centers for Disease Control, Medline Plus (in English and Spanish), the Department of Health and Human Services, the National Library of Medicine, the Food and Drug Administration, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and many more.

Private sector health information sites have an average score of 75 (range from 48 to 84). This category includes 24 Web sites for companies such as 1800Contacts, Bausch & Lomb, Proctor & Gamble, Alcon, and more.

“Considering the private sector sites often have greater resources, more flexibility, and greater adaptability, to have the public sector outperform the private this year is a very surprising outcome,” Freed said. “The benchmark shows that the private sector’s perceived advantages do not always translate to higher satisfaction. Whether you have thousands of dollars or millions in your budget to fix or design your Web site, it doesn’t mean anything unless you know how to use that money to get the most bang for your buck. You can only do that if you listen to what the consumer wants and then meet their needs and exceed their expectations — that’s satisfaction.”

Hospitals and Health Systems

The average satisfaction score for hospitals and health systems dropped four points to a 74 this year, but much of the gap was due to new sites being added to this small category; sites that were measured both this year and last lost an average of only 0.3 points. The 15 individual Web site scores in this category range from 63 to 85. This category includes organizations like Cleveland Clinic, Intermountain Healthcare, Northwestern Memorial Hospital, University of Michigan Health Systems, Allina Hospitals and Clinics, and several others.

Satisfaction also has a sizable impact on visitors to hospital and health system sites. Highly satisfied visitors to these sites report being:
* 177 percent more likely to return to the site;
* 185 percent more likely to recommend the site to others; and
* 234 percent more likely to use the site as their primary resource.

Health Insurance

Although the average satisfaction score for health insurance Web sites increased from 51 to 56, things are not all rosy and bright for the 19 sites in this category. A 56 is considered a low score; in addition, half of the sites that were measured both this year and last experienced score increases, but the other half had declined. The individual sites in this category showed a range of 33 to 79 in satisfaction scores and include Web sites for providers such as Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Kansas (and other states), Department of Defense Tricare, and many other private and public health insurance websites.

Satisfaction makes a big difference in customers’ likely future behavior.

This research shows that highly satisfied visitors to health insurance sites report being:
* 203 percent more likely to return to the site;
* 300 percent more likely to recommend the site to others; and
* 256 percent more likely to use the site as their primary resource.

“As the lowest-scoring category in the benchmark, health insurance companies have the most to gain by improving communications with customers in the online environment,” Freed said. “The wide range in scores shows that while there’s definitely a lot of room for improvement for health insurers, both private and public, to upgrade their online customer experience, there is promise at the top. While health insurance companies have the greatest room for improvement, they also have the greatest potential to reap the rewards of providing a great customer experience. It comes down to understanding their customers and how to satisfy them.”

ForeSee works with a broad and deep list of healthcare information, products, providers, and insurance companies. In addition to critical insights about customer satisfaction and future behavior, ForeSee customers receive detailed information about key drivers of satisfaction for their own audiences so they can focus improvement efforts on areas that can provide the best return on investment.

“This research really expresses the value of using customer experience analytics to measure satisfaction,” Freed said. “If you just look at the future behaviors scores, or the percent more likely numbers, the value is immense. The companies and organizations that continue to measure the customer experience as a means to meet customer and patient needs and exceed expectations will experience exceptional results in the form of satisfied customers that are more likely to return, recommend, and use the site as a primary resource.”

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