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Communication paramount in securing patient trust, survey finds

While consumers are often enticed by convenience, trust is what retains them, the survey shows.

Jeff Lagasse, Editor

Photo: SDI Productions/Getty Images

What patients need from providers and hospitals, even more than convenience and affordability, is clear and direct communication from their healthcare organization, according to the from consulting firm Jarrard.

While consumers are often enticed by convenience, trust is what retains them, the survey found. A referral from a trusted friend or relative is the top driver of people's choice of primary care provider (PCP), and insurance coverage is also a priority when seeking care.

Jarrard identified feeling seen and heard as the lynchpin of healthcare consumer satisfaction, finding that many patients would be willing to travel somewhat further to stay with their current PCP.

One of the takeaways for providers is that they need to straddle both the digital and analog worlds. While patients value digital tools, they also value analog ones, and people are evenly split on whether they'd prefer an in-person or virtual visit for their first interaction in an episode of care. Half prefer a phone call to schedule an appointment, compared to four in 10 who would choose scheduling online.

Urgent care is filling the convenience gap, the survey found. Eight in 10 have nearby access to an urgent care clinic. Just under half have used it in the past year. Of those who have used urgent care, they cite location and the ability to be seen quickly – including after hours – as the primary reasons for choosing it over a PCP or other provider.

Experience, and a personal touch, is of prime importance to patients. For them, "quality" is displayed, not through technical metrics or awards, but through deeply personal, relationship-oriented care delivery. A doctor who listens and a staff that cares are the top factors in building trust and creating a sense of quality care, said Jarrard.

WHAT'S THE IMPACT?

In looking at utilization, the report found 67% of adults 18-34 say they have an established PCP. Not surprisingly, that number rises for each age group, with 95% of those 65 and older saying they currently have a PCP.

Among those who issued care, 48% cited cost or convenience as the top factors. Meanwhile, about 30% of respondents said they're still unclear on what virtual care options are available from providers or health plans.

Personal interaction matters the most when building trust, with patients saying they're more likely to trust their provider when the doctor listens to their concerns, and when the staff is caring and friendly. Ease of scheduling an appointment, good online reviews and leaving an appointment with a plan for how to deal with a health ailment were other top factors.

"Caring" and "listening" are the most highly cited reasons people appreciate their PCP. Approximately half of respondents referenced some form of interpersonal engagement as what they like most about their PCP. About one in seven mentioned convenience, and one in 10 referred to ideas about competence and quality.

At least two-third of insured patients have access to virtual care through their health plan, but many don't know it or aren't sure. Increasing awareness among the three in 10 who don't know if their plan includes virtual care could be an opportunity to improve access and lower cost, the survey found. About 25% of patients still aren't sure of their options.

Just under half of them have recently had a virtual visit, and more than nine in 10 said they were satisfied with their experience. A desire for in-person care was the primary reason for opting against a virtual visit.

THE LARGER TREND

Communication between physician and patient is crucial throughout a patient's hospital stay, from discussing treatment options to making joint decisions to knowing who to call after discharge, found a 2019 i-HOPE survey.

Prior research cited by i-HOPE showed that, while physicians were skilled at providing health information, they were less skillful at seeking feedback from patients, assessing patients' level of understanding, or meaningfully incorporating patient preferences into treatment plans.

Jeff Lagasseiseditor of Healthcare FinanceNews.
Email:jlagasse@himss.org
Healthcare FinanceNews is aHIMSSMedia publication.