Staff attitude vital to patient retention, according to survey

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Your staff members' attitudes play an important role in patient satisfaction, according to new research. See the other practice characteristics patients find important.

Your staff members' attitudes play a central role in how patients perceive your practice-and whether they decide to continue receiving care there, according to new research from the PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Health Research Institute (HRI).

When interacting with a physician’s office, patients are almost twice as likely as customers in the airline, hotel, and banking industries to say that staff friendliness and attitude dictate whether their experience was positive or negative, according to findings in the “Customer experience in healthcare: The moment of truth” report. Additionally, one-third of patients say they would be willing to change healthcare providers if another one offered a more “ideal experience.”

One of the key takeaways outlined in the report is that health organizations should create forums for patient feedback so they can proactively monitor and manage patient experiences.

“The voice of the customer may be the best kept secret in healthcare, but that’s changing as consumers exert greater control over how their healthcare dollars are spent and exercise power to vote with their feet and wallets,” says Kelly Barnes, U.S. health industries leader, PwC.

The report draws on findings from PwC’s Customer Experience Radar, a nationwide survey of about 6,000 consumers across nearly a dozen industries. HRI compared the experiences and attitudes of consumers in the banking, hotel, airline, and retail sectors with those of patients in the healthcare industry.

Although patient expectations in healthcare track closely with consumer expectations in other industries in many respects, healthcare consumers differ in several areas:

Staff attitude was cited as the main contributor to positive experiences by 70% of consumers in the provider sector, compared with 38% of retail shoppers and 33% of bank, hospital, and airline customers.

Personal experience was found to be the top reason that patients choose a doctor or hospital, and it’s more than two and a half times more important than it is to consumers in other industries. Price was the top driver of purchasing decisions for consumers in every industry but healthcare provider.

When asked about the conveniences and services they value from healthcare providers, 69% said they want facilities that offer multiple services in one location, 65% appreciate the ability to exchange information through online and mobile channels of communication, 57% say they place a high value on patient education they receive during a visit, and 53% of consumers say they place a high degree of value on access to WiFi and other entertainment.

One of the greatest benefits of a positive customer experience is the potential for many other people to be told about it, yet only 54% of provider consumers actually tell anyone within a month of having a positive experience, compared with 70% of retail customers and 66% of banking customers.

“Lessons from other industries have slowly made their way into the health industry, but most healthcare companies-whether payer or provider-still have a ways to go before they can match the transparency, convenience, and overall quality of experience individual consumers often demand in other sectors,” says Paul D’Alessandro, health industries advisory principal and U.S. customer impact leader, PwC.