How hospitals can win patient and physician loyalty—and why they need to

Patients regularly indicated it's the teamwork between their providers that would keep them coming back to a particular hospital, according to a new report from Press Ganey. (Getty/wmiami)

When it comes to building loyalty, patients regularly indicated it's the teamwork between their providers that would keep them coming back to a particular hospital, according to a new report from Press Ganey Associates.

And as it turns out, the same holds true for providers.  

"There's a common path for meeting our patients' needs and our providers' needs," Thomas Lee, M.D., chief medical officer of Press Ganey, told FierceHealthcare. "Both are feeling stressed about their experience in healthcare ... big parts of what we need to do to ease patient's fears and give them a piece of mind overlap with what we need to do to address burnout." 

The report released Thursday examined primary indicators for patient loyalty from the results of more than 1.3 million inpatients and more than 285,000 emergency department patients and found their responses were highly correlated with markers of whether more than 73,000 clinicians were likely to recommend their own organization and stick around. 

Those are simultaneously important to an organization's financial bottom line and can impact the long-term quality of care a patient receives, Lee said.

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Among the findings: 

  • In inpatient settings, patients’ perception of their caregivers' teamwork was the strongest predictor of their loyalty. Being treated courteously by nurses and perceiving caregiver responsiveness to concerns are also strong predictors of patient loyalty in the inpatient setting.
  • In emergency department settings, patients' perception that the staff care about them was the strongest predictor of patient loyalty. That was followed by perceived doctor courtesy and nurse courtesy as predictors of loyalty.
  • In the medical practice settings, patients were most likely to recommend their doctor based on caregiver teamwork, followed by clinicians showing respect for what they say and the overall courtesy shown throughout the practice.

Lee said he was surprised by what patients didn't focus on. For instance, these factors beat out others such as emergency department or appointment wait times, which did not show a statistical difference when it came to patient loyalty.

RELATED: Press Ganey report links patient experience and patient safety

"Having care that is really coordinated is important to patients," Lee said. At the same time, physicians went into medicine because they want to deliver well-coordinated care, he said. "When it comes to clinicians, I can't tell you how dispiriting it is to be part of a team that's dysfunctional. But it makes you proud to be part of a good team. That's an example of where these overlap."

Both patients and clinicians also indicated they believe they benefit from social norms that encourage empathy and respect for patients. 

"I'm hoping people will see this stuff as not just a 'nice to do,' but a 'must do,'" Lee said.