The High-Performing Physician Network

Patient loyalty is earned in the exam room

  | July 17, 2017

What's the biggest predictor of whether a patient would recommend a healthcare practice to his friends? It turns out that it's not customer service, the beauty of the waiting room, or the ability to schedule things seamlessly online. It's the actual encounter with the doctor.

That's the finding from a study using data from more than 200,000 patient surveys, issued by MedStatix to patients visiting physicians on the athenahealth network.

It found that the experience with a provider was the single most important factor in determining whether a patient would recommend the practice to others — the gold standard measurement of customer loyalty in a host of industries.

And even marginal differences in satisfaction with the physician could have a big effect. In the surveys, 92 percent of patients who rated their doctor a 10 out of 10 gave the practice a top rating of 10 out of 10. But only 31 percent of patients of who ranked their doctor a 9 out of 10 — and only 13 percent of patients who rank the doctor an 8 — gave the practice a top score.

This may be a counterintuitive — or forgotten — idea at a time when many healthcare organizations are adopting the tools and tactics of leading service organizations. Patient satisfaction is often measured and improved around the edges, with scripting for nurses and front office staff and fancy multimedia waiting rooms.

But while those factors are important, they'll only take you so far, says Josh Gray, vice president of research at athenahealth. Ultimately, patients respond to a physician who is capable, attentive and a strong communicator, Gray says: “In the end, there is no substitute for a good doctor."

James Furbush is managing editor for athenaInsight. MedStatix is a patient experience analytics company based in Pennsylvania.

Patient loyalty is earned in the exam room