Strengthening the Patient/Provider Relationship

Strengthening the Patient/Provider Relationship

In the rapidly evolving healthcare marketplace, the role of a primary care physician (PCP) is changing. Healthcare organizations are working to surround PCPs with broader care teams—nutritionists, mental health professionals, social workers and physical therapists—to provide PCPs time to focus on the most critical patients. In addition, PCPs provide a valuable link in referring patients to a healthcare organization’s specialty care offering, leveraging the power of a unified electronic medical record, driving pay-for-performance reimbursements, and strengthening patient loyalty. It’s probably not surprising, therefore, that health systems we work with are seeking to learn more about the patient/provider relationship.

With this in mind, we decided to take a closer look at the value of the relationship by measuring commitment to one’s physician. Last month, we posted a blog entitled I Love My Doctor! outlining our effort to accomplish this goal. We showed preliminary data about how a single satisfaction measure can have a dramatic impact on patient perceptions. A comparison of single-word descriptions of one’s PCP divided by high and low levels of satisfaction show striking results.

Satisfied Consumers

Dissatisfied Consumers

Obviously, satisfaction levels correlate with perceptions. Yet, satisfaction is a tricky concept. In our many years of customer satisfaction work, clients have consistently asked us, “Why do people leave their doctor after they just told us they were highly satisfied?” We usually remind them that satisfaction is just one aspect of an overall relationship; people leave PCPs for a variety of reasons.

In the latest wave of our self-funded omnibus, we asked about satisfaction and added three questions shown to measure other aspects of any relationship: how much a relationship matters, the perceived value of the relationship, and how the relationship compares to other options. When combined, we are measuring the strength of the relationship and, importantly, are able to isolate ways these relationships can be improved.

What did we find?

  • Consumers tend to be highly committed to their PCPs.
  • The bar is set very high. Consumers with high commitment to their PCP describe them in exceedingly positive ways. Competent, Convenient, and Conscientious are not good enough. Seek Exceptional.
  • A more sophisticated approach to measuring the patient/provider relationship appears to identify twice as many consumers at risk for flight compared to a single satisfaction measure.
  • Other than age, demographics do not appear to play a large role in the PCP relationship.
  • The relationship between health status and the PCP relationship is moderate.
  • Relationships consumers have with PCPs are dramatically stronger than with their insurance companies.

If you’d like to see more detail pertaining to what we found or would like to see what we plan to do next, download Commitment to the Patient/Provider Relationship.

Download the Report
Market Strategies interviewed a national sample of 1,014 adults between April 6 and April 13, 2017. Respondents were recruited from the Full Circle opt-in online panel of US adults and were interviewed online. The data were weighted by age, gender, and census region to match the demographics of the US population. Due to its opt-in nature, this online panel (like most others) does not yield a random probability sample of the target population. As such, it is not possible to compute a margin of error or to statistically quantify the accuracy of projections. Market Strategies will supply the exact wording of any survey question upon request.

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Jack Fyock

About Jack Fyock

Jack Fyock is a senior vice president in the Healthcare research and consulting division of Market Strategies International. A social psychologist, Jack has directed many innovative projects in formative research, communications research, message development and program evaluations. He has extensive experience in Medicare communication research and has published work in the Health Care Financing Review, a peer-reviewed journal, related to beneficiary perceptions of the Medicare program as well as on beneficiary reactions toward healthcare delivery. Jack received his bachelor's degree from Randolph-Macon College and his master's and doctorate degrees in social psychology from the University of Maryland at College Park.

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