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Research reveals important lessons for UK Health Providers

by on July 21, 2016 in Lead Article, Lead story, News you can use

Research reveals important lessons for UK Health Providers

Strategic brand and marketing consultancy Prophet have conducted a study which includes revealing results about the private healthcare industry

News of recent cutbacks in the NHS may still be front of mind, but overall satisfaction with clinical care in the UK is high among the British public.  Strategic brand and marketing consultancy Prophet’s recent study of 1,000 UK health care consumers showed 90% were satisfied with the experience of visiting a clinic or doctor.

High satisfaction was consistent across income, age, education, region and sex.

Empathetic Relationships Drive Overall Satisfaction

High satisfaction was driven by strong ratings for the ways physicians and staff relate to and work with their patients.  Understanding, empathy, effective communication and treating patients as valuable individuals are all perceived strongly across the broad cross-section of health care consumers.

Caregiver – Patient Relationship Attributes Satisfaction
My doctor takes the time to understand me and my needs 87%
My clinic/doctor’s surgery has empathetic staff 84%
My doctor/clinic/surgery communicates well 84%
On my last visit my doctor treated me like a valuable individual 83%

Consumers who use private care were more satisfied than those using only the NHS but the differences were fairly small. These point to the strength of NHS physician –patient relationships and to the challenges that private care providers face in differentiating their services on these important relationships.  Private care providers tend to differentiate on other aspects of healthcare, such as eliminating queues for surgical procedures or expediting diagnostic testing.

NHS Private
Caregiver – Patient Relationship Attributes
My doctor takes the time to understand me and my needs 83% 92%
My clinic/doctor’s surgery has empathetic staff 80% 88%
My doctor/clinic/surgery communicates well 80% 89%
On my last visit my doctor treated me like a valuable individual 81% 85%

Frustration with Availability and Timeliness of Care

Frustration was high however, with the availability and timeliness of healthcare services. Between a third and a quarter of all NHS only patients expressed dissatisfaction with their ability to do the basics, see the doctor they want and spend enough time with them. Those using private care were much more satisfied. They were 60% less likely, for example, to be dissatisfied with the basics than those who use only the NHS.

Dissatisfaction with Availability and Timeliness
NHS
Private
It’s quick and easy to do basic things, like schedule appointments
35%
14%
My provider allows me to see the doctor I want when I want
35%
20%
My doctor spends all the time I really need with me
26%
17%

Healthcare Expectations are on the Rise


The study also found that healthcare expectations are rising.  57% of survey participants reported that their expectations for their doctors and clinics have risen in the past five years. Expectations are rising in large part because consumers are taking a greater role in their own care. Almost a third of healthcare consumers, 63% of the total, stated they actively seek information about their health. The desire to play an active role is strongest among the young, those who use private care and women.

Want to actively seek new information about my health %
total of all respondents 63%
respondents age 18-34 73%
respondents using private care 69%
female respondents 67%

Digital Shift

Consumers’ pursuit of a more active role in healthcare is particularly strong when using digital tools with 76% independently seeking out information about their health.

Digital behaviours among UK healthcare consumers Total 18-34 female
I independently seek out information about my health 76% 83% 83%
I often use other resources (google/apps) rather than visit my doctor or clinic 58% 73% 67%
I would prefer to be able to get a diagnosis online/without visiting my GP 45% 58% 43%

Old Habits Are Hard to Break

The study also provided a glimmer into the classic challenge of motivating busy people to take action to protect their health. 46% of all respondents reported avoiding or putting off seeing their healthcare provider because they don’t have the time.  As expected, this behaviour is worst among the young who avoid or put off seeking care 62% of the time.

Fred Geyer, Senior Partner at Prophet [pictured] said: “This study shows that private providers have a great opportunity to exploit their availability and timeliness advantages. To do so they must invest more in building lasting relationships and finding relationship advantages that give sustainable and ongoing reasons to stick with private care over time.  Digital tools are an important way to make the relationship broader and more rooted in patients’ lives over time.”

Study Implications

The study has significant implications for providers, life science companies and other participants in the health care system.

The NHS has a clear opportunity to do more to leverage its strengths in empathetic physician-patient relationships. Prioritising investments in enabling physicians and staff and creating mechanisms to bring the relationship into the digital sphere are the most evident.  But, poor access to these relationships and the growing shift to digital are threats that must be addressed.  Every time a patient uses a private service because of access problems they build relationships with a new set of physicians and staff, and allow private providers an opportunity to capture these patients for longer lasting relationships. Every time a consumer uses a digital tool that is not connected to a broader ecosystem of NHS content and assistance the NHS risks becoming less relevant to their lives and needs.

Private Providers have a great opportunity to exploit their availability and timeliness advantages. To do so they must invest more in building lasting relationships and finding relationship advantages that give sustainable and ongoing reasons to stick with private care over time.  Digital tools are an avenue to make the relationship broader and more rooted in patients’ lives over time.

The digital opportunity revealed in this study is an enormous opportunity for other healthcare companies such as Life Science companies, new health care entrants and even retailers.  All can take advantage of consumers’ desire to be more engaged in their health, their desire to seek independent information and their willingness to use digital tools.

These needs are not being adequately addressed by providers, leaving a clear gap in the market that other firms can fill.

The online survey was conducted in May 2016 and 1,000 UK adults with an annual income of at least £30,000 were questioned.

Top graphic by Shutterstock

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