Patients who perceive caregivers as working cooperatively are more likely to return to and recommend healthcare facilities. Across both emergency department and critical care unit patients, perceptions of teamwork between doctors, nurses and staff was the number one key driver impacting patient loyalty, according to new research from PRC and the Healthcare Experience Foundation.
“The patient experience is widely regarded as a top priority in healthcare. There is so much complexity in the emergency and critical care environments, and our goal was to isolate aspects of care that are most important to patients in order to give leaders, staff, and physicians clarity to support their improvement efforts,” Katie Owens, president of the Healthcare Experience Foundation, SVP of PRC Excellence Accelerator, and lead author of this study, said.
The study was completed using retrospective patient experience survey data from 2016 to 2019 for patients discharged from 441 emergency departments and 40 critical care units. On average, teamwork explained 69 percent of the variation of patient loyalty in the Emergency Department and 55 percent of the variation of patient loyalty in the ICU.
The study identified key drivers of excellence, attributes of the patient experience statistically demonstrated to influence perceptions of patient loyalty. The top four emergency department key drivers included:
1. Overall teamwork between doctors, nurses and staff
2. Doctor understanding and caring
3. Discharge instructions
4. Doctor instructions/explanations of tests
In the critical care departments, the top three key drivers included:
1. Overall teamwork between doctors, nurses and staff
2. Overall level of safety
3. Nurses understanding and caring
“When patients perceive their care as excellent in attributes such as teamwork, understanding and caring, level of safety, discharge instructions, and instructions/explanations of tests, hospitals’ efforts will be rewarded with patient loyalty in these high acuity environments,” Joe M. Inguanzo, Ph.D., president and CEO of PRC, said. The study notes that creating patient loyalty depends on relationship-building, communication skills, and working together as a care team. Improving the attributes of care identified as key drivers can positively shape the care experience for some of the most vulnerable and urgent patient populations.
Electronic health records can build patient loyalty. And using them within a practice and letting patients know about them and their uses, it is more likely that patients will return for service again in the future.
At least that’s the latest news from Kaiser Permanente.
Also according to the health plan/care provider is that patients are more loyal to a practice using an EHR if the practice is also using a patient portal for the patient to access their personal health records.
Accordingly, people using Kaiser’s personal health record to track their health, manage their care and access records through Kaiser’s My Health Manager (the organization’s patient portal) were more likely to stick with the Kaiser health plan than not in future plan years.
Though I maintain my fair share of skepticism about the study featured in the American Journal of Managed Care because Kaiser members are incredibly loyal (I know because I’ve worked with Kaiser members as a benefit plan communications director for a major government program in the region where the study was conducted) and they probably would not have switched plans regardless of the patient portal (and because the study seems somewhat self serving of Kaiser), there may be a nugget of truth here.
Apparently, according the study, Kaiser plan members who used the portal to view their medical records, make or change appointments and communicate with their doctor or other health provider electronically, where more likely to continue to pick the same plan in subsequent plan years.
The results are derived from more than 160,000 Kaiser Permanente Northwest members enrolled in a Kaiser plan between 2005 and 2008. Members who used the portal were more than twice as likely as nonusers to stay with the health plan during the period studied. “The only greater predictors of retention likelihood were more than 10 years of plan membership and a high illness burden,” the study authors wrote.
Essentially, the authors of the study suggest that EHRs integrated with a patient portal are more likely to create loyal patients.
Really, though, the findings of this Kaiser study are nothing new. As have been reported numerous times before, patients continually perceive healthcare technology positively, at least according to my perspective.
In the survey, patients said they felt more comfortable with physicians that used an EHR system, and more importantly, patients felt that the information contained in the medical record was more accurate when they physically saw information being entered electronically. Physicians using EHRs in front of their patients said they felt the most comfortable with the accuracy of the information contained in their records.
Additionally, in the survey I conducted, 45 percent of patients had a “very positive” perception of their physician or clinician documenting patient care with a computer or other electronic device, and patients believe that using an EHR will actually improve care outcomes in the long term.
Physicians and patients also agreed on the benefits of using electronic devices to document patient care during an encounter. The most important benefits of EHRs, as agreed upon by the two groups, were
They give physicians access to patients’ medical records and history in real time.
When appropriate, EHRs help the physician securely and seamlessly share information with other doctors, pharmacies and payers.
EHRs help physician make good decisions about patient care, ultimately driving the quality of patient care.
To put it bluntly, yes, there appears to be a great deal of patient loyalty for physicians using an EHR. Kaiser’s data only seems to strengthen this claim, and, certainly, it appears that integrating technology that’s “interactive,” such as a patient portal, helps foster this connection.
If nothing else, using an integrated EHR seems to generate greater patient engagement and may create more loyalty toward a practice, which ultimately builds stronger practices and potentially more word-of-mouth customer referrals, which help businesses grow.