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By the Numbers: Evidence Mounting of Increase Importance of Patient Experience, Healthcare Consumerism

Gienna Shaw, for HealthLeaders Media, July 22, 2009

The healthcare industry is slow to embrace any kind of operational change and tends to be ambivalent about many marketing functions. That's why I was bowled over by the fact that a whopping 88% of senior healthcare executives in a recent HealthLeaders Media study said that patient experience is among their top five priorities—and the number jumped even higher when we asked them about their priorities five years from now.

(The full results of the survey will be released this fall at the HealthLeaders Media 09: Hospital of the Future Now event.)

In the 2009 HealthLeaders Media Industry Survey, conducted late last year, 25% of CEOs put "consumer satisfaction" among their top three priorities in the next three years. They were indifferent about consumer-driven healthcare—the majority (51%) said it would have a neutral impact on their organization in the next three years. Transparency? Only 2% of CEOs said making price and quality data available to consumers was one of their top three priorities.

But this new survey suggests that CEOs are rethinking the importance of improving the patient experience and other studies show that consumerism in healthcare—long talked about—might really be coming after all.

Hospitals have been redesigning rooms, adding amenities, and even improving their menus for a while now. But the focus on patient experience and consumerism must move from cosmetic to strategic.

Consider, for example, a recent survey of 800 Massachusetts adults. Only 24% said they trust their doctor completely to make the right decisions about where they should go to receive medical care. And in the survey, conducted by Boston-based brand communications firm PARTNERS+simons, nearly all respondents (98%) agreed that not all hospitals deliver the same quality of care.

Another survey of 500 healthcare consumers, conducted by Dayton, OH-based NCR, which makes self-service products for hospitals, found many consumers are looking for a more convenient experience. More than half (54%) said they want to be able to book appointments and receive lab results online, for example.

"Today's patients have greater choice—and they are choosing to stay loyal to those healthcare providers that provide the best overall patient experience," the survey report concludes.

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