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What Patients Say is Most Important to a Positive Patient Experience

By Stewart Gandolf, Chief Executive Officer

caring handsEmpowered patients and retail-like consumerism have become increasingly important in healthcare delivery. But for many medical practices, doctor groups and other healthcare providers, the ability to deliver and measure a positive patient experience remains a bit elusive.

This may be due in part to the fact that, traditionally, patients were not seen as “customers,” at least in the same sense as the retail world regards its audience and consumer base.

Recently, Harris Interactive set out to survey patients about what they regard as important to a positive patient experience. What drives healthcare consumers and what factors are important to their decision making process? This Harris Poll found:

  • The clear top issue in patients' minds is their doctor's overall knowledge, training and expertise (with 83% rating it very important).
  • Their doctor's ability to access their overall medical history (62%), and time spent with their doctor (59%) are the next most vital factors;
  • Appearance and atmosphere of the doctor's office (26%) and minimizing paperwork (29%) are the least important issues.

Do patients feel satisfied with their healthcare visits? Most do, the Harris data indicates. “Among the 84 percent of Americans who visited a doctor's office within the past year, nearly half (47 percent) reported being very satisfied with their last medical visit; and an additional 36 percent described themselves as somewhat satisfied.”

Compared to consumer experiences in other industries, however, satisfaction falls short with “very satisfied ratings behind those reported for Americans' last restaurant visit (63 percent), their last online purchase (62 percent), and their last bank visit (59 percent).

On the other end of the scale, “dissatisfaction with most recent healthcare provider visits (17 percent) is comparable to levels observed for recent mobile phone store visits (also 17 percent) and health insurance company interactions (18 percent).

The Harris Poll findings [available in detail here] conclude: "Customer experience matters in healthcare and will continue to impact purchasing decisions and customer retention," notes Debra Richman, Senior Vice President of Harris Interactive.

"The healthcare consumer is increasingly evaluating brand equity, convenience and product or service value as they make choices.  In an increasingly competitive healthcare marketplace, a positive customer experience will serve to differentiate health plans and providers."

In a related two-part article published on PatientExperience.com, a PricewaterhouseCoopers survey among consumers found Patient Experience Matters More Now Than Ever.

Lonnie Hirsch

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