By Emily Heuser, Senior Consultant, Market Innovation Center
As options for care grow and patient loyalty declines, primary care providers increasingly have to find ways to set themselves apart from other providers to attract new patients—and avoid losing existing ones.
Nearly half of all patients say they may not stick with their same primary care provider over the next year, according to the Advisory Board's Primary Care Physician Consumer Loyalty Survey. But that doesn't mean that patient loyalty is out of providers' hands. Rather, our research showed that providers who prioritize certain attributes are more likely to both keep their patients and attract new ones.
We surveyed over 2,000 patients to understand both what they want and what they are already getting from their primary care providers in order to identify strategies that are most likely to give primary care providers a competitive edge in the marketplace. Here are the top five investments and process changes providers can make to beat out the competition and attract new patients.
1. Offer same or next-day appointments. The biggest factor that influences a patient's willingness to switch primary care providers is quick access: Patients want same- or next-day appointments. They're interested in providers who are flexible and accept walk-in appointments. But patients aren't only interested in being able to book an appointment quickly, they want to know they won't have to wait long when they arrive. That's why providers can also use guaranteed short wait times of 15 minutes or less to attract new patients.
2. Stay open on weekends (and after hours). Another big draw for patients is weekend hours. While patients appreciate any extended care hours, the general population had a slight preference for providers that are available on the weekend. But that's not necessarily the case for everyone: patients who live in cities and are under 30 found extended weekday hours particularly appealing.
3. Bring specialties under one roof. Patients care about convenience. They like being able to see their cardiologists, behavioral health specialists, or other specialists all in one location—and when they're able to do this, they report higher levels of satisfaction. Providers interested in such a change should first examine whether there is potential for onsite ancillaries. If there is, providers should then consider how they would logistically integrate these services.
4. Extend appointment times. For many patients, it's important that they don't feel rushed through an appointment. They want to make sure they have the time they need to discuss symptoms and treatments with their physician. We found this is particularly true for male patients and those who are moderate- to higher-utilizers. For those patients, a guarantee that visits will last at least 20 minutes can go a long way.
5. Be transparent about prices. Patients under age 30 are nearly twice as motivated as patients older than 50 to change to a provider who offers the exact cost of a visit beforehand. To be transparent about prices, providers must first determine a process to generate accurate price estimates, and then help patients to understand and utilize this information.
To discover more takeaways about the differentiators that can provide your organization a competitive advantage, download our full report on the Investments to Attract New Primary Care Consumers. Then, to benchmark our current performance against what patients are currently experiencing with scheduling, wait times, travel times, care continuity and more, download our one-page report on What are Consumers Getting From Primary Care?