The Growth Channel

Is it fair to compare physicians' Net Promoter Score to Apple's?

by Emily Zuehlke

When we analyzed data from our Primary Care Physician Consumer Loyalty Survey, we also looked at PCPs' Net Promoter Score (NPS)—a loyalty metric used to understand how consumers represent a company, or a PCP, to their friends and family.

The NPS measures the difference of the physician’s "promoters" and "detractors," or consumers who are likely to recommend and to not recommend their physician. Based on the survey response, we calculate that the nearly 2,000 respondents' PCPs had a NPS of three. For perspective, a PCP’s NPS is on par with Super 8 Motel (NPS of 4)—and far behind Netflix (NPS of 68) and CVS Minute Clinic (NPS of 84).

But is it fair to compare the NPS of a physician to a brand like Apple (NPS of 47)?

PCPs have finite panel sizes, whereas companies like Apple can accommodate any level of demand (although anyone who has waited in line for a new iPhone release might feel differently). What is the incentive, one member wondered, for a patient to recommend a good PCP when increasing his or her popularity equates to longer waits for an appointment? Patients, the member posited, act like diners who protect their ability to get seats at their favorite restaurant by keeping it a secret, so we shouldn’t read into PCPs’ NPS.

Curious, we dove into the survey data. Of the 721 respondents who said they "definitely were not switching PCPs in the next 12 months," (rating their likelihood to switch PCPs a zero on a scale of 0-10, with 10 being "definitely switching"), 64% were promoters and 16% were detractors. This means that patients who are least likely to switch PCPs give their PCP a NPS of 48—just ahead of Sun Trust, American Express, and State Farm.

Next, we looked at patients who were more likely to switch PCPs in the next year (rating their likelihood to switch between a four and a 10 on a scale of 0-10, with 10 being definitely switching). Of these 540 respondents, 11% were promoters and 59% were detractors. This less loyal group therefore gave their PCPs an unenviable NPS of -48, far lower than Time Warner Cable (NPS of -5) and US Airways (NPS of -8).

While wait times for an appointment are a top concern of primary care consumers and correlated with likelihood to stay with a PCP, the threat of lengthening wait time does not appear to deter patients from referring PCPs to their friends and family.


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What do consumers want from health care?

You know you need to exceed consumers’ expectations—both to attract patients and to keep them loyal. But what exactly do consumers want? And what should you prioritize first?

Check out this infographic to see results from three of our consumer choice surveys.