What Patients Want, Expect from Health-Care Providers

By FOXBusiness

Skyrocketing costs have made consumers savvier and more demanding when it comes to their health care.

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Whether it’s friendly office staff or wireless Internet access, consumers are expecting the same amenities and customer services from their health-care provider as they would from a hotel, bank, airline or retailer, according to new research from The PwC Health Research Institute.

The PwC Health Research Institute surveyed 6,000 consumers to gauge their opinions of health care as it compares with other service-based industries, and found that friendly staff and convenience are the top priorities for consumers when it comes to health care.

Getting a friendly greeting when checking into a hotel is a sign of hospitality, but in the doctor’s office it can make or break a visit. PwC Health found that consumers are nearly twice as likely to say that staff friendliness and attitude dictate whether they have a positive or negative experience compared to airlines, hotels and banks.

Nearly 70% of respondents want medical providers to offer multiple services in one location, while 65% want the ability to exchange information online and through smartphones. Slightly more than half (53%) appreciate medical providers that offer on-site services like WiFi.

“In many respects consumer expectations in health care track closely with other industries,” PwC said in its report.  “Convenience and speed are high on the list whether purchasing clothing or choosing a doctor.”

But doctors and providers have a lot more at stake than other industries when it comes to bad user experiences. Patients are less forgiving than retail customers, the survey found, and rely more on word of mouth recommendations.  Of the survey respondents, 72% said they were willing to share a good experience they had with a health insurer compared to 91% that would share a good experience with a hotel.  In terms of sharing good experiences in general, 70% of consumers would boast about a retailer, while 54% would in the health-care industry.

PwC reports the complexity and timeliness of feedback in the health-care industry makes patients less prone to share. Retail, for example, has embraced a digital and quick way to get feedback by offering discounts on consumers’ next purchase if they fill out an online questionnaire.

Good news for the health-care industry is that price isn’t a primary driver when it comes to choosing care. The survey found that while price was the top influencer in every other industry, in healthcare, 42% named personal experience as the most important factor. A consumer is 2.6X more likely to consider personal experience when choosing a doctor or hospital, and recommendations from peers are twice as important when making health-care decision than in the other industries. Close to 75% ranked provider reputation and personal experiences as the top reasons to choose a doctor.

While consumers may get mad when an airline ticket agent is nasty, chances are they will use the same airline again if the price is right--that’s not the case with medical providers. More than half of shoppers cite friendly staff as the key to winning or losing them but in the healthcare arena that stands at 70%. Staff attitude defined six out of 10 health-care experiences, according to PwC, making attitude twice as important in healthcare than in banking or the hospitality industries.