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Convenience more important to patients than quality of care, survey finds

Published January 7, 2019 on healthcaredive.com.

  • Patients want more from providers than just good care. They also desire ease, convenience and choice, according to NRC Health’s 2019 Healthcare Consumer Trends Report.
  • Patients surveyed spoke highly of their providers, but were negative about support staff, wait times, billing and insurance.
  • Many healthcare systems are aware of the need to focus on patient experience. Nearly half of the organizations surveyed plan to invest in technology to gauge patient-experience metrics over the next year.

People want convenience, whether that’s from their mechanic, retailer or provider. NRC Health’s Market Insights surveyed more than 223,000 healthcare consumers and found that 51% said convenience and access to care are the most important factors in their decision-making. That’s above insurance coverage (46%), doctor/nurse conduct (44%), brand reputation (40%) and quality of care (35%).

The need for convenience is one factor in the growth of retail clinics and telehealth services. The report found that retail clinics grew 500% since 2006. Nearly one-third of patients have used retail clinics for primary care. A recent PwC Health Research Institute report also referenced how retail clinics’ convenience make them an alternative to traditional providers.

“There’s no reason to believe that these trends will slow down, as consumers continue to expect ever-more convenient access to care,” NRC Health said.

The survey of patients found that they’re largely satisfied with their providers. They also appreciate respect and communication from doctors and nurses.

There is room to grow in other areas, though. The survey discovered that patients don’t believe their providers have a proper understanding of their health history. Only slightly more than a quarter of respondents were satisfied with their provider’s knowledge of their past.

Respondents also spoke negatively about wait times and dealings with non-clinical staff. About two-thirds said administrative and support staff didn’t treat them with respect.

Problems with support staff also involve billing and insurance, which about one-third of respondents complained about. The report warned these non-clinical issues can affect a patient’s perception of a practice. One way to help with this issue is to improve cost transparency.

In response to the findings, NRC Health offered five recommendations: prioritize human innovation and improve relationships, improve ease-of-use, cultivate continuous relationships rather than focusing on episodic care and return time to clinicians through reduced documentation and rebuilt EHR systems.

Health system executives understand the end to improve customer experience. A recent Kaufman Hall survey of 200 hospitals and healthcare executives found that 90% of respondents said improving customer experience is a high priority. That was up from just 30% a year prior.

Few systems have actually done anything about it so far, though. A recent study from Chicago-based Prophet charged that consumerism for providers, payers and pharmaceutical companies is lacking.