There’s a growing consumer force making its presence known in medicine: convenience.
In the past, a practice could offer a handful of Saturday appointments and that was about the only convenience patients expected. But patients are now demanding the same expectations from practices that they do from restaurants or retailers, and if they don’t get them, they find another doctor.
“If practices don’t adapt, they will see patients slowly migrate elsewhere,” says Susanne Madden, MBA, president and CEO of The Verden Group, a Nyack, NY-based healthcare consulting firm. Madden has first-hand experience, having recently switched providers herself.
“I was on hold for 12 minutes to book a simple annual physical,” says Madden. “I used that time instead to fill out a transfer medical form and booked an appointment with a larger practice online and picked a new doctor.”
Twelve minutes may not seem like much, but it was enough of an inconvenience for Madden to make the switch. She says if practices want to survive, they need to cater to consumer behaviors in medicine, even if there are no other doctors in town. “Some rural doctors might get
patients not because they are amazing doctors, but because there aren’t many options,” she says. “But the day a competitor moves into town with a higher level of care access and communication, they’ll be out of business. They need to take the time to up their game.”
Competition is coming from urgent care facilities as much as other medical practices, experts say, and often have the funds and expertise to give consumers exactly what they want and redefine what an appointment with a doctor looks like.
Take GoHealth Urgent Care. Backed by private equity, its mission is to “redefine the healthcare experience.” It has 125 centers and is opening 30 more in the next year.
GoHealth partners with local health systems and builds facilities with convenience at their core. Patients can compare wait times for GoHealth facilities online, make an appointment at the one with the shortest wait, and upon arrival, check-in via kiosk. Office designs are bright and open, and patients enter exam rooms where high-tech electrostatic glass walls change from clear to frosted for privacy. All equipment is either in the room or brought to the patient, so no moving about the office if, say, an x-ray is needed. Wall-mounted screens show the patient what the doctor is looking at and entering into the health record, and there is no checkout when the patient is finished—they just leave.
“We compare ourselves to a restaurant, where consumers will not return after one or two poor experiences,” Dev Ashish, CIO of GoHealth, said at HIMSS19, an annual health IT convention. “The same rules apply to healthcare.”
He said that instead of relying on the long patient satisfaction questionnaire with a low response rate that many in the healthcare industry use, GoHealth relies on a simple Net Promoter Score, which asks how likely someone is to recommend their services to a friend on a one-to-10 scale. Their response rate is between 40 and 50 percent, providing GoHealth with lots of data and is the same method used by the nation’s largest retailers. The company follows up with anyone offering specific feedback, good or bad.