What Do Consumers Want from Primary Care?

10 Insights from the Primary Care Consumer Choice Survey

Our 2014 Primary Care Consumer Choice Survey asked 4,000 consumers what they’re looking for when choosing a clinic for a low acuity illness like the flu. Download this brief to see how they responded.

What Do Consumers Want from Primary Care?

Consumers want it all—short drive times and ancillaries at every site, provider continuity and 24/7 availability—but your resources aren’t infinite. You have to prioritize and make trade-offs.

We asked nearly 4,000 consumers about their on-demand care preferences across 56 clinic attributes. In our new research brief, you'll learn the top clinic attributes, patient's relative preferences, and cohort differences.

Increasingly, primary care = market share

As referral networks tighten, primary care is increasingly important for winning and protecting population share. With the rise of retail and virtual providers, urgent episodic care (on-demand care) represents one of the best opportunities for attracting new patients.

Because many patients wait until they are sick before choosing a clinic, we conducted a survey to find out what’s most important to them when seeking care for an illness like the flu. Where a consumer receives care for her sore throat will likely influence where she receives her mammogram and knee arthroscopy. Here’s what we found.

Download the insights

About the survey

Top Ten Preferences by Category

Unlike many other surveys, which allow respondents to rate all items as “important,” our MaxDiff conjoint methodology asked participants to make trade-offs among 56 different clinic attributes, providing insight into the relative importance of each attribute.

The survey asked consumers to assume they had the flu and wanted to receive care, but their usual provider was not available. Respondents were shown multiple sets of five clinic attributes. Within each set of five, they were asked to choose the one “most appealing” and the one “least appealing” to them. Each attribute was presented multiple times, resulting in a ranked list of utility scores indicating the relative value of each attribute.

Why the flu? Learn more in the brief.

Ten insights we learned from consumers

1. Convenience is king

Prioritize immediate access. Six out of the top 10 attributes were related to access and convenience.

2. Same-day appointments trump walk-in and wait

Consumers ranked “walking in without an appointment and being seen within 30 minutes” first among 56 attributes, but “walking in and being seen in one hour” ranked 39th.

3. Evening or weekends? Depends on age.

24/7 access ranked fifth among all 56 attributes. But staffing a clinic around the clock is rarely feasible.

So when should your clinic be open?

Preferences for after-hours versus weekend access differed across age cohorts, with preference for weekend access growing with age.

4. Clinic near errands or work? They'd rather meet you online.

Unsurprisingly, respondents preferred a clinic near home over a clinic near errands or work. What was surprising—they also preferred email visits over a clinic near errands or work.

5. A one-stop shop is worth the drive

When choosing between a clinic with lab, imaging, and prescriptions on premises and a clinic located five minutes from their home, the majority of consumers preferred having ancillary services onsite.

6. Consumers prioritize convenience over credentials—and continuity

Consumers ranked six access and convenience attributes over being treated by a physician, and four access and convenience attributes over being treated by the same provider each time they visit the clinic.

7. High-tech beats high-quality

Even when making a decision on where to go for less acute illnesses like the flu, consumers value the availability of cutting-edge technology.

71% of respondents prefer a clinic with cutting-edge technology to one with quality scores in the top 10% for their area.

8. Don't rely on your brand

Respondents ranked attributes related to reputation unexpectedly low. The highest ranking reputation attribute, “a clinic affiliated with the best hospital in the area,” ranked 19th, and a clinic affiliated with a university hospital ranked 34th. In other words, consumers assigned more value to 18 and 33 other attributes, respectively.

9. Talk about money—consumers will trade access for bill info

There was little that consumers preferred less than not knowing how much the visit would cost until receiving the bill a few weeks later: the attribute ranked 55 out of a total of 56.

Related: Achieve price transparency with our new checklist

10. Know your target population—particularly their age

When defining value, younger cohorts (18 to 49) preferred eliminating out-of-pocket charges, while 50- to 64-year-olds rated convenience factors—specifically walk-in availability, short wait times, and having ancillaries on-site—as more important than a free visit.

Millennials to Medicare: How primary care preferences vary by age

How Primary Care Preferences Vary by Age

Download our strategic plan template

Organize your thoughts using our goal-oriented, actionable, and presentation-ready template. Simply follow the step-by-step instructions to develop a primary care plan that you can update across time to reflect your institution's changing priorities.


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