Vital Signs Blog

Blog: Former Caesar's Casino CEO places bets on patient loyalty

Loveman Loveman
LAS VEGAS—Hospital CIOs meeting in Las Vegas got comps from a former gambling casino executive. But they weren't chips, free rooms or limousine rides. It was something potentially more valuable. They were told how to use data analytics to obtain and maintain the loyalty of healthcare customers who are increasingly choosing providers based on service and value.

Gary Loveman is the recently appointed executive vice president of the Healthagen health services and consumer business unit at health insurance giant Aetna. Loveman's domain includes Aetna's population health, clinical care management and consumer insight functions.

But Loveman was previously the chairman, president and CEO of Caesar's Entertainment, formerly Harrah's Entertainment. Harrah's introduced a customer loyalty program in 1997, the year before Loveman arrived. Under Loveman, the casino company expanded the rewards program, renamed Total Rewards, to cover millions of participants. The program was so effective, the family of a deceased customer listed in his obituary that he was "a loyal Total Rewards” member, Loveman said.

In contrast, “the healthcare system has been almost entirely reactive,” Loveman said. When a patient goes to the doctor, they register, provide information both the patient and provider know is redundant, “and then you're told to sit down and wait for the provider,” Loveman said. “We'll call you when we're ready. In my old job, I had to feed people when they were hungry.”

What the casino rewards program did was take customers' preferences and dislikes and tailor a rewards program.

"We gave them what they wanted, and in exchange, they gave us information about themselves,” Loveman said. They created and tested hypotheses about each customer using their data. For example, if a 63-year-old woman from Philadelphia was playing $10 slot machines, but only spending so much at Caesars' properties, the company hypothesized that customer was spending a lot more at competing casinos, Loveman said. So, Caesars' tailored a reward geared toward attracting a higher percentage of her spending.

“In the casino business we have lots of toys,” Loveman said, including spas, night clubs, golf courses, limousines. The trick was to use iterative communication with each customer to find the combination “uniquely valuable to you.”

The casino, he said, would “make an offer, refine our hypothesis” and “do it again and again for 45 million people.”

And those relationships with customers evolve over time. You have to “persuade the persuadable,” Loveman said. “People are not persuadable at every moment.”

Young people, for example, couples looking for fun or a romantic getaway, are approached one way. Parents are less likely to spend money gambling, but they shouldn't be completely cut loose because they will mature into older adults with grown children, becoming prime customers.

A gambler's most recent casino experience influences the reward offer, as well, Loveman said.

“If you win $1,000 you love us. We can't keep you away,” he said, but, “if you lose $1,000, you hate us. You won't come back unless (we) do something significant” in terms of a reward.

With healthcare, an analogous circumstance might be a good report from a lab test, which might make the offer of other health service more attractive, Loveman said.

Adverse events, such as a change in the patient's well being, might be a signal for increased need for engagement, he said.

If the patient is a 63-year-old man with hypertension and heart disease and two recent trips to the hospital, a savvy healthcare organization should compare his course of action with that of other, similar patients with better outcomes, Loveman suggested.

“We need to find an interdiction tailored to his health,” he said. It could be a high copayment or deductible is causing the target patient not to have sought timely, more appropriate and less acute care. Or, the patient may not have access to prescription meds. It might be because the patient lives alone and transportation is a problem. Or, he or she might be confused about the best treatment.

Healthcare organizations need to leverage their data to figure out whether it's worth the investment “that someone go talk to him, weighted against the opportunities” for health improvement and cost savings, Loveman said.


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