Relationships top predictor of patient loyalty

With payer networks narrowing and patients' out-of-pocket expenses rising, patient loyalty isn't what it was. But while many variables go into a patient's decision of whether to stick with a healthcare provider, research compiled by Medscape indicates strong relationships are critical to patient retention.

According to a 2013 analysis of 1 million patient records from Press Ganey, the top determinants of patient loyalty are:

  • Confidence in the care provider

  • Coordination of care

  • Concern providers show for patients' questions or worries

  • Listening

  • Courtesy of care providers

"Data on waiting time, convenience, ease of access and practice amenities--variables that are traditionally the focus of improvement efforts, as they are easily definable and actionable--were relatively less important predictors of patient loyalty," the study concluded.

Nonetheless, the researchers found most patients were likely to stick with their current doctors, while 16 percent were at "high risk" of leaving for another physician or practice. The organization defined high risk as those who were not "very likely" to recommend their physician or medical practice to others.

However, separate research from HealthPocket indicated that more than a third of respondents who had a regular doctor would switch if it would save them money. Of this group, more than half would change doctors for a savings of $500-$1,000.

With this data in mind, physicians need to know what drives patient decisions and loyalty, Kevin Coleman, head of research and data for HealthPocket, told Medscape. "Doctors can't be a commodity," he said. As in other businesses, they need to develop a strong brand that promotes consumer loyalty, he added.

To learn more:
- read the article
- see the Press Ganey study
- check out the HealthPocket survey