What patients want in a hospital

Healthcare customers can be hard to please, a PwC Health Research Institute report suggested today.

In a nationwide survey of 6,000 consumers across nearly a dozen industries, provider customers (following health insurance customers) were the least likely to share a positive experience with others. Fifty-four percent of provider consumers talk about their positive experience, compared to 70 percent of retail and 66 percent of banking customers.

Even more, consumers also are less forgiving of providers with whom they have had a negative experience, reporting that six out of ten negative experiences are more likely to be remembered longer in the provider industry compared to other sectors. 

PwC explained that expectations of today's healthcare consumers mirror other industries, with customers used to benefits like 24-hour service or mobile access. According to the report, the ideal experience is built on nonclinical factors like convenience, customer service and staff attitudes.

Personal experience in the provider sector includes the following:
- Facilities that offer multiple services in one location (69 percent)
- Ability to exchange information through online and mobile channels of communication (65 percent)
- Patient education during a visit (57 percent)
- Cafeteria and access to Wi-Fi and other entertainment (53 percent)

One of the biggest reasons for positive experience was the staff. In their interactions with a hospital, doctor's office or other provider, consumers are about twice as likely as those in the airline, hotel and banking industries to say that staff friendliness and attitude contributed to a good or bad experience.

As Deb Beaulieu, editor of FiercePracticeManagement, recently wrote, the working mom spent six hours driving to, attending and driving home from a 20-minute annual checkup, and she says she doesn't regret a second of it. Accounting for a recent move, weather and traffic, Beaulieu noted she would do it again, largely because of staff greeting her like old friends and the provider's electronic health records in what she calls hitting the "doctor lottery."

Interestingly enough, although price was the biggest driver of purchasing decisions in all other industries in the PwC findings, price was the least important to provider customers. They were more likely to choose a hospital or doctor because of personal experience, at two and a half times more important than consumers in other industries.

Patient experience not only affects customer loyalty but also Medicare reimbursements. In October, Medicare will base reimbursements in part on patient satisfaction scores, cutting payments by one percent, or about $850 million for fiscal year 2013, under the Hospital Value-Based Purchasing program. Patient satisfaction scores will determine 30 percent of the incentive payments.

"The voice of the customer may be the best kept secret in healthcare, but that's changing as consumers exert greater control over how their healthcare dollars are spent and exercise power to vote with their feet and wallets," PwC U.S. Health Industries leader Kelly Barnes said in a statement. "Hospitals and insurers are competing for loyal customers served by new care and coverage models in a more retail-oriented health market."

For more information:
- see the PwC announcement (registration required)
- check out the report and charts (registration required)
- read the insights for providers and payers (registration required)

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