The Value of a Good Reputation

How Healthcare Providers Can Improve Their Reputation to Attract More Patients and Qualified Staff

2016-01-27

A good reputation is an important asset for healthcare providers. Along with credible market positioning, it is vital for attracting self-reliant, quality-conscious, and cost-aware patient groups. Qualified and committed employees are key to a positive patient experience and hence to a provider’s reputation.

 


Management Summary

  • Attracting new patients requires going beyond accurate diagnostics and efficient treatments. It requires a compelling relationship management that includes patient education, fast appointment scheduling, effective communication, and short waiting times to help increase patient satisfaction.
  • Competition for patients has gone international. Medical tourism is a trend and already a lucrative market. For most international patients and elective patients in general, access to leading-edge technology and high-quality diagnostic and therapeutic services are decisive factors. This should be taken into account when addressing this customer group.
  • Fostering the relationship with referring physicians is essential, as they have a major influence on the selection of care providers. General practitioners and specialists expect accurate and timely diagnosis results from hospital operators, acting as partners in the further treatment of their patients.
  • Attracting skilled professionals in the industry’s tense labor market is a serious challenge – the employer’s reputation is a major decision criterion for prospective employees.
  • A good reputation and motivated staff are mutually reinforcing: motivated employees largely determine the quality of medical and economic outcomes. They are crucial for the patient experience and, therefore, for the reputation of a hospital. Modern technology helps to significantly improve working conditions and employee satisfaction and to position the hospital as a desirable employer.

From Patients to Customers
“Where will I get the best treatment?” is an important question that patients ask with increasing frequency before a hospital stay. The evolution into a consumer-driven healthcare industry with well-informed customers is desirable from a political point of view, especially in countries with expensive healthcare systems such as Germany and the U.S.

Representatives of health insurance companies call for increased transparency regarding quality of care and more focus on the results of what is done in order to improve patient outcomes. They also advocate quality-driven remuneration models with quality-related premiums or discounts.1 Also, to facilitate the patients’ choice of a healthcare provider, some health insurance companies publish annual hospital quality reports online, making them broadly available to the public. Indicators of the quality of processes and outcomes are to be included in patient-friendly quality reports. 

 

Medical Quality Counts
Despite increased efforts by hospital operators to score points with convenience features, medical quality is still the most important criterion in the choice of a hospital.2 However, many patients find it difficult to rate this, so general practitioners and specialists play a prominent role in the choice of a hospital. Fast and accurate diagnostic results, timely appointments, and smooth, IT-based data exchange are some of the assets with which hospital operators can significantly improve their reputation among this important, influential group.

A hospital’s economic basis also affects its reputation. According to a survey by consulting firm PwC, in the case of a poor financial situation, many patients fear a negative impact on medical care or the condition of medical equipment. Modern equipment, for instance, allows for readily available and accurate diagnostic results, which can significantly help reduce waiting times, improve patient outcomes, or avoid ineffective treatments, thereby significantly increasing patient satisfaction. For example, in Germany, large, well-equipped teaching hospitals tend to have the best reputation, followed by privately run hospitals, and far exceed municipal or church facilities.3

 

The Internet is Becoming Crucial to Reputations
Around the world, the Internet, with its online review sites and social media platforms as sources of information, rapidly becomes more and more important for a hospital’s reputation and its selection by partners – especially among younger, well-educated patients and potential employees. This is equally true for Europe, the U.S., and many emerging economies. More than a third of the Indian population, for example, use the Internet to search for health information, with similar percentages of younger, more educated people seeking health information online in Brazil, Mexico, and China.4

In Denmark, for example, customers grade hospitals online on a special website by giving them scores that range from one to five stars as if they were hotels, with service level indicators as well as actual results, including case fatality rates on certain diagnoses. In the U.S. too, patients and referring physicians can compare hospitals online – via the CAHPS Hospital Survey.5 The CAHPS results give hospital managers interesting ways to invest in patient satisfaction. According to the survey, a whopping 30% of all newly discharged patients would not unequivocally recommend their hospital.

 

Good Staff, Good Reputation – and Vice Versa
The CAHPS results show that open-minded, responsive staff significantly influence patient satisfaction and the resulting good reputation of a hospital. Close and personal patient engagement can only be achieved through dedicated, satisfied employees.6 Investments in employee satisfaction seem to pay off financially. Research from Gallup indicates that committed or ‘engaged’ physicians are more productive and ensure considerably more recommendations. Gallup estimates the average annual increase in revenues at just under half a million dollars per doctor.7

The use of state-of-the-art technology for diagnosis, treatment, and information management can significantly increase employee satisfaction and thus the patient experience and the reputation of a hospital. Key starting points include improvements on the working environment through efficient IT-based processes that save staff time and allow more time for patient care, and training that empowers employees to make optimum use of their technical equipment. Access to an extensive, cutting-edge database and accurate diagnostic results also support researchers on their studies and publications, and that helps not only to increase the reputation of a hospital as a healthcare provider, but also as a desirable employer with attractive development prospects.

 

Attractive for Patients Around the World
Excellent and reasonably priced services, a good international reputation, and a focus on the needs of foreign patients are some ways that successful hospital operators secure lucrative patient flows from abroad. Experts peg the global market volume for medical tourism at around $38.5 to $55 billion, based on approximately 11 million cross-border patients worldwide spending an average of $3,500-5,000 per visit.8 According to the OECD, dental care, cosmetic surgery, elective surgery, and fertility treatment are particularly popular.9

Globally, only about one in eight patients is going abroad mainly for cheaper treatment.9 Instead, the majority of medical tourists want better medical care. According to a study by McKinsey, advanced technology, better quality of care, and quicker access to medically necessary therapies are the main motivations for medical tourism.8

 


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1GKV, 14 Positionen für 2014, Reform der Krankenhausversorgungaus Sicht des GKV-Spitzenverbandes https://www.gkvspitzenverband.de/

2Bertelsmann Stiftung und der Barmer/GEK, Gesundheitsmonitor 2012. Bürgerorientierung im Gesundheitswesen, http://gesundheitsmonitor.de

3PwC, Umfrage Krankenhäuser, April 2014 www.pwc.de

4Bain & Company, Health Care 2020

5Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems, www.hcahpsonline.org

6Gallup Business Journal, Why Hospitals must Surpass Patient Expectation, May 2014, www.gallup.com

7Gallup Business Journal, Want to Increase Hospital Revenues? Engage Your Physicians June 2014, www.gallup.com

8Patients Beyond Borders, 2015; www.patientsbeyondborders.com

9WHO, Medical Tourism, 2013; www.who.int

The statements by Siemens’ customers described herein are based on results that were achieved in the customer's unique setting. Since there is no "typical" hospital and many variables exist (e.g., hospital size, case mix, level of IT adoption) there can be no guarantee that other customers will achieve the same results.