The Loyalty Formula

Added on May 1, 2018

Insights on Consumerism: The Loyalty Formula 
By Chrissy Daniels

Those of us who work in patient experience are always on a quest for more surveys. If only we had a higher return rate, more responses, then we could find the answers. Imagine a million surveys. With that kind of data, surely one could discover the loyalty formula: the combination of elements that predicts patients’ likelihood to recommend a care provider or practice.

What would you learn if you had a million completed surveys? Press Ganey’s data scientists asked—and answered—that very question, by analyzing the experiences of approximately 1 million patients using a statistical method for multivariable analysis called recursive partitioning. This methodology shows the relative importance of various factors, as well as the interactions among them. The resultant analysis illustrates not only whether they have differences in the Likelihood to Recommend outcome, but also why they do.

The Loyalty Formula

The study revealed that 97% of patients were likely to recommend their provider if, within a given visit, they

  • Had confidence in the provider;

  • Perceived that the care team worked well together; and

  • Felt that the practice was organized to meet their needs.
It sounds almost too simple. What about wait times? What about access? Actually, this formula is more complicated than it initially appears. The study demonstrates that even when confidence in clinicians is high, the Recommendation Failure Rate (the percentage of responses in which Likelihood to Recommend does not receive top ratings) rose to 11% if patients perceived their care team didn’t work well together, and to 22.3% if they felt that the care team was not deeply concerned about their needs. 

If This Is What Patients Want, How Do They Find It?

Now put on your consumer hat. You’re looking for a new doctor. You start asking around. “Anyone know a good [insert specialty here]?” You haven’t read this excellent study, so you probably don’t know that you are looking for the exact formula of skill + team + patient needs, but you will recognize it when you see it.

The “needs” part kicks in early. We know patients often start their search with location and insurance as primary filters. Then system affiliation becomes important. Why? Because it is perceived as a proxy for skill. After all, systems must have access to information that lets them screen out the bad doctors—at least that is what patients hope. After that, if you look at most provider profiles, the information becomes very scant.

The Importance of Patient Reviews 

With the loyalty formula in hand, providers can understand the power of patient reviews to convey the right information in the right way. Each one of these reviews is an endorsement of the provider’s skill from someone who has personally benefitted from that skill. Consumers trust these reviews because they are written by people who have the same condition or same symptoms, and so they share their needs. Often these reviews are the gold standard for demonstrating how well a provider is able to meet those needs.

And the more reviews, the better, because consumers thoroughly research the comments, looking for patterns and for preferences that ring true to their own needs. In other words, consumers are looking for their own loyalty formula, and as we all know, loyalty really matters. It helps drive key consumer decisions on where to get care and from whom. It affects patient retention. It influences market share. And most importantly, it is a powerful indicator of how well the patient-centered mission, vision and values of health care are translated into practice.

Adding Consumer-Focused Detail

Increasingly, providers are adding consumer-focused details to their online physician profiles. Often it starts with a short bio or video talking about how the physician chose their specialty. Another great addition is an online scheduling link. This makes it easy for me to find an appointment time that meets my needs (check box for “meeting patient needs”).

Now that we have the loyalty formula in hand, what else would be great to add? More detail about the physician’s skill. Physicians are great at conveying this in person, but not always on the Web page. Think about how the physician puts the patient at ease during the first appointment, and add those words to the profile.

Lastly, patients want to know that the practice is organized around their needs. Any details highlighting this attribute are very valuable. Examples include the hours of operation, details about financial questions, and integration with alternative therapies, among others. Contributing more consumer-focused detail to physician profiles is a powerful way to attract patients.