It would be an understatement to say that hospitals, clinics and healthcare systems have a lot riding on retaining and attracting patients. As patients become more responsible healthcare consumers they are increasingly willing to seek alternatives to their current provider. Who are these patients? What triggers their switching behavior? What can be done to prevent it?

We delved into these questions and more in our latest consumer behavior research. In the study we surveyed 1,233 consumers ages 25–64 in six markets.

We broke consumers into three generations: Millennials, ages 25–37, Generation X, ages 38–50 and Boomers, ages 51–64.

 

We asked:

  • What is the most important thing in determining whether you’re satisfied or unsatisfied with your healthcare provider?
  • What influenced your decision to leave the healthcare provider or health system you were using?
  • If you have never switched, what would influence your decision to switch?
  • Would you go outside your preferred provider for special treatment?

 

We found:

Compassionate care and customer service are significant choice drivers. One in five who switch health systems change because of a poor service experience.

Healthcare costs are secondary drivers for choice, but there is high anxiety around the future cost of healthcare.

Generationally, Millennials are more sensitive to service issues. The number one value to this generation when choosing a provider is compassionate care, followed by skilled doctors and insurance coverage. Generation X values skilled doctors, insurance coverage and getting clear information about medicines and treatments. Boomers look for skilled doctors, insurance coverage and doctors who make sure patients understand all of their options.

 

Our research indicates that:

  • 14 percent of consumers say they are considering switching providers right now.
  • 30 percent say they’ve switched in the past.
  • 21 percent have gone outside their preferred provider for special treatment and 32 percent would consider it for future needs.

 

What’s driving switching behavior?

Our survey shows negative experiences driving change included service and quality of care, with cost being a lower driver. Reasons for changing that were outside a provider’s control included a change in insurance coverage, a location change and a physician who retired or moved.

When asked which service and quality issues influenced consumers’ decisions to switch, our respondents’ verbatim answers included:

  • highly disorganized office with outrageously excessive wait times
  • there was no privacy or caring with the receptionists
  • uncaring attitude and general neglect of patient
  • not enough time spent with physician
  • I wasn’t receiving care after five hours of waiting
  • wanted a more proactive and available doctor
  • looking for a doctor who cares about my well being

 

Knowing all of this, what can be done?

How do you attract the 14 percent of people who are one bad experience away from switching? How do you prevent the 30 percent who have switched in the past from switching again? How do you attract the 21 percent who would go outside their preferred provider for special treatment?

If you look to the research, what healthcare consumers are asking for is exceptional service, compassion, respect and the ability to build a strong relationship with their provider. Retaining and attracting patients starts by providing what consumers want on the inside of your organization which ultimately leads to viable differentiators between you and your competition that can be soundly touted to the outside world.