Expert Insight

6 advantages to matching patients with compatible clinicians

Investing in patient-clinician compatibility leads to stronger relationships and creates significant benefits for healthcare organizations. Discover how matching patients with the right clinicians can improve patient outcomes, increase patient retention, spur clinician engagement, and promote health equity.

Patients want clinicians they can connect with and trust. But right now, there aren’t many tools patients can rely on to evaluate whether a clinician is right for them. Clinician directories are outdated and incomplete. Word-of-mouth references are hard to come by, and online clinician rating systems are out of touch with what really matters to patients.1

Patient needs are also diverse and complex. They want information that will help them pick a clinician who aligns with their clinical, cultural, and communication needs. For example, a patient may benefit from a clinician who speaks their language, understands veterans’ unique health needs, or is trained in body-positive care.

Prioritizing patient-clinician compatibility can help organizations advance their strategic goals. Matching patients with clinicians based on compatibility makes it easier for patients to find a clinician that they trust. And this ultimately helps organizations improve patient outcomes, increase patient retention, spur clinician engagement, and advance health equity.

Read on to learn six advantages of matching patients with the right clinicians up front.

1. Improve patient access by optimizing new patient appointments

Organizations often think that if demand for clinicians is high, focusing on patient-clinician compatibility is unnecessary, or even counter to addressing access concerns. However, intentionally matching patients with the right clinician expands clinician capacity, frees up new patient appointments, and increases access to care for the patients who need it.

Currently, new patient appointments, which aren’t leading to repeat visits, are taking up primary care capacity because patients are trying to find the right clinician fit. For example, a 2013 analysis of claims data and health risk assessments found that 23% of patients saw three or more primary care physicians (PCPs) across 24 months.2 If those patients had been paired with a compatible physician, they may not have needed to visit multiple clinicians, which would increase the number of new-patient appointment slots for other patients.

When patients ‘shop around’ for a clinician, it isn’t a valuable use of time and resources for either party — plus it worsens access challenges. Patients have a right to assess for fit, and there are better, more equitable ways to help patients schedule with confidence. Investing in compatibility-based matching means patients entering your front door are less likely to leave out the back.”

– Melany Rabideau
Head of Optum Match

2. Reduce costs associated with avoidable patient attrition

When patients like and trust their doctor, they are less likely to leave. Panels built with loyal patients experience less attrition and have lower cost and administrative burden associated with activities needed to replace established patients with new patients.

It takes time and energy to orient new patients to a practice and a new clinician. New patient visits are longer than established patient visits because clinics request and interpret patient records, input or update insurance, and help new patients fill out additional intake information. The extra time spent on administration means additional costs with minimal reimbursement and return for provider organizations.

There are a variety of reasons patients do not return to clinicians. Although some patients may leave due to a new job or change in insurance plan, patient attrition is more likely due to incompatibility with a clinician. On the other hand, patients who feel aligned and connected to a clinician are more likely to return.


Organizations see attrition due to incompatibility

  • 20% average rate of annual patient attrition3
  • 80% of patient attrition due to incompatibility4,5

3. Drive success in value-based care with durable patient-clinician relationships

Compatibility in care helps provider organizations drive results in value-based payment models. Unlike fee-for-service care, value-based care reimburses clinicians based on patient outcomes rather than the cost of individual visits and procedures.

Value-based care prioritizes preventive care and managing chronic conditions to improve health outcomes. Patients who feel compatible with their doctor and understood are more likely to have honest discussions about symptoms and conditions that they may have avoided having in the past.

When clinicians have long-term, trusting relationships with patients, patient education becomes easier, patient adherence increases, and quality improves.6 Setting clinicians and patients up to form sustainable and trusting relationships ensures organizations can achieve financial viability within pay-for-performance models and risk-based contracts.

“As value-based care focuses on outcomes, you need to sometimes have difficult conversations, and the best way for a patient to be open and honest with a clinician is if they feel comfortable. Patients feeling connected with their doctor from a social, spiritual, or cultural standpoint can lead to uncovering health issues and even social determinants of health needs."

– Stephen Macias, President
Optum New Mexico and Arizona

4. Improve physician experience and retention by restoring joy in practice

In an environment where 7% of physicians turn over every year and 53% of physicians report feeling burned out,7 investing in clinician engagement and retention is increasingly important. In 2018, 78.7% of surveyed physicians indicated that their relationship with patients was the most satisfying thing about medical practice.8 Pairing clinicians with compatible patients may increase clinician retention by bolstering job satisfaction.

Clinicians have few outlets to share their diverse backgrounds and unique personalities with patients, especially when third-party patient review sites and quality grading systems can’t holistically reflect the clinician. Patient-clinician compatibility efforts may give clinicians a way to convey their perspective and approach to patients. They can also create opportunities for clinicians to learn more about patients on a deeper level.

Because compatibility improves patient satisfaction and outcomes, efforts to match patients with the right clinicians allows clinicians to realize the reason they went into medicine in the first place — to make a positive difference in patient lives.

“Clinicians find joy of practice when they feel like they can impact positive clinical outcomes over time. Clinicians can increase the odds of that happening with better patient relationships via personalizing the search and matching experience.”

– Dr. Garry Choy, Chief Clinical Transformation Officer
UnitedHealth Group

5. Center holistic patient needs to support workforce strategy

Patient demographics matter in selecting the right clinician, and matching the demographics of your workforce to your patient population can support compatibility in care.9

However, giving patients the opportunity to find the right clinician involves more than just a patient’s demographics. It entails learning about their needs, including their preferences for clinic amenities, identity-centered competencies, care approaches, and bedside manner.

A better understanding of patient needs and preferences can also help shape an organization’s workforce strategy. When organizations have a holistic view of their patients, they can offer targeted training opportunities to clinicians, better allocate talent across sites, and make hiring decisions based on what patients want and need. Offering culturally competent and inclusive care is a learned skill that gives clinicians many ways to provide compatible care across diverse populations with credibility.


Clinicians are open to additional training in identity-centered care

In a 2023 Optum survey, patients and clinicians were asked about preferences and experiences with identity-centered care competencies, including body-positive care.

  • 67% of patients indicated that they prefer a doctor that can provide body-positive care
  • 9% of clinicians had been trained and the other 91% were open to training in body-positive care

6. Advance health equity by making compatible care accessible to all

Just as clinicians put extra effort into new patients, patients spend energy trying to find the right doctor. They may need to take time off work, make time to gather all their medical records, secure transportation, or find childcare. Compatible care can especially feel out of reach for marginalized patients who don’t always have the resources to research new clinics and afford multiple new appointments in the quest for the right clinician. If these patients have a bad experience at the first appointment, they are much more likely to go without care altogether.

When organizations invest in a better match, they can advance their health equity goals by improving the experience of marginalized patients and by promoting identity-centered care. In turn, marginalized patients who have the option to choose a clinician based on compatibility — such as having shared experiences around body size, gender, culture, sexuality, and communication style — are more likely to build trusting relationships with their doctor and return as established patients.


The opportunity to match Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) patients with PCPs10

  • 29% of Black Americans do not have a PCP
  • 36% of Latino Americans do not have a PCP
  • 60% of Black patients and 51% of Latino patients expected to be insulted or thought they had to be careful about their appearance when going to the doctor at least some of the time11


Strategies to improve patient-clinician compatibility must be efficient, convenient, and scalable. Status quo approaches, such as third-party patient review sites and payer-focused quality grading systems, don’t provide the right information patients need to find a compatible doctor.

Simply adding more information to clinician bios or adding designation labels to existing directories may just exacerbate search fatigue among patients.

Organizations should consider how new technologies can help them match patients with clinicians at scale to unlock the advantages of prioritizing compatibility for stronger patient-clinician relationships.

1 Note: Unless otherwise specified, the information in this article comes from interviews with Melany Rabideau, Head of Optum Match.

2 Gudzune, KA, Bleich, SN, Richards, TM, et al. Doctor shopping by overweight and obese patients is associated with increased healthcare utilization. Obesity. May 13, 2013.

3 RevSpring. The hidden cost of losing a patient – and how to keep more of them. March 18, 2019.

4 PatientPop. 2021 patient perspective survey report. June 28, 2021.

5 Schneider, T. How healthcare practices can resolve the common reasons behind patient attrition online and offline. Physicians Practice. December 21, 2021.

6 Olaisen, RH, Schluchter, MD, Flocke, SA, et al. Assessing the longitudinal impact of physician-patient relationship on functional health. Annals of Family Medicine. September 2020.

7 Advisory Board. The physician workforce: 2023 data unpacked. Advisory Board. May 2023.

8 The Physicians Foundation. 2018 survey of America’s physicians: practices, patterns, & perspectives. 2018.

9 Saha S, Komaromy, M, Koepsell TD, et al. Patient-physician racial concordance and the perceived quality and use of health care. JAMA Internal Medicine. May 10, 1999.

10 Levine et al. Characteristics of Americans With Primary Care and Changes Over Time, 2002-2015. JAMA Internal Medicine. March 1, 2020.

11 KFF. KFF survey on racism, discrimination, and health. KFF. 2023.

About the sponsor

Optum Match intelligently matches patients with clinicians based on shared values for durable relationships. The journey to find the right clinician can be overwhelming. Optum Match makes the process simple with authentic connections and lasting results.

Learn more at

Interested in bringing Optum Match to the communities you serve? Contact us at

Sponsored by Optum Match

This article is sponsored by Optum Match. Advisory Board experts wrote the article, maintained final editorial approval, and conducted the underlying research independently and objectively.

Learn more about Optum Match


  • Hospitals and health systems
  • Physicians and medical groups

  • You'll get a new perspective on why strong relationships matter to patients, clinicians, and organizations.
  • You'll understand how investing in patient-clinician compatibility can help advance your patient retention, physician engagement, and health equity goals.
  • You'll learn more about the variety of factors that impact patient-clinician compatibility, including clinical, cultural, and communication preferences.

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