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Survey: Clinics provide enriched healthcare experience, help shape patient satisfaction


NEW YORK — When asked about interest in using retail clinics to obtain specific medical services, the care model holds strong appeal for patients across several treatment categories, according to a Harris Interactive poll released Monday. Roughly two-thirds (65%) of patients indicated being likely to utilize such facilities for flu shots (65%), and roughly half indicated being likely to visit a retail clinic seeking care for a cold or flu-like symptoms (53%), a cut or puncture wound (49%), a rash (47%), cholesterol or blood pressure tests (47%), or lab services such as blood sugar testing (47%).

"Customer experience matters in health care, and will continue to impact purchasing decisions and customer retention," said Debra Richman, SVP healthcare business development and strategy at Harris Interactive. "The healthcare consumer is increasingly evaluating brand equity, convenience and product or service value as they make choices. In an increasingly competitive healthcare marketplace, a positive customer experience will serve to differentiate health plans and providers."

Even those treatments least likely to be sought out at a retail clinic still represent reasonably strong niche markets: roughly one-fourth would be likely to go to such a facility for a regular check-up regarding a chronic condition (27%), and one-third or more would be likely to go for all other tested treatments.

According to the survey, healthcare knowledge is the key factor that drives patient satisfaction. When asked to rate a series of factors on their importance in driving a positive experience, a healthcare provider's overall knowledge, training and expertise was most important (with 83% rating it very important). Their provider's ability to access their overall medical history (62%) and time spent with their provider (59%) were the next most vital factors, while appearance and atmosphere of a provider's setting (26%) and minimizing paperwork (29%) were the least important issues.

And many patients are interested in using online communications to facilitate interactions with their healthcare providers. For example, the service which currently is most widely available (online access to medical records) is available to 17% of patients — a number greatly outweighed by the percentage without the service available but considering it very important (32%) or important (33%).

Results show a similar disparity for all of the tested services, including (among others) email access to doctors (12% have the access; 23% find it very important, 30% find it important), online appointment setting (11% have; 21% very important, 30% important) and online billing and payments (10% have; 21% very important, 29% important). The greatest gap between desire and fulfillment is seen for an online cost estimator: only 6% of patients report being offered the service now, while just over three in five are without the service and describe it as either very important (26%) or important (36%).

The survey also found that satisfaction with healthcare providers is a lot higher as compared to satisfaction levels observed for several other industries. 

Among the 84% of Americans who visited a doctor's office within the past year, nearly half (47%) reported being very satisfied with their last medical visit; an additional 36% described themselves as somewhat satisfied. Medical visit satisfaction appears to rise with both age and education: very satisfied ratings range from 35% among Echo Boomers (ages 18 to 35 years) to 56% among Matures (ages 67 years and older), and from 44% among those with a high school education or less to 52% among those with postgraduate education.

Satisfaction fell short of levels observed for several other industries, particularly those with more of a focus on providing a pleasurable experience: very satisfied ratings are behind those reported for Americans' last restaurant visit (63%), their last online purchase (62%) and their last bank visit (59%). Very satisfied ratings are comparable to those recorded for U.S. adults' last hotel stay (49%), car purchase (47%) and department store visit (44%), and are ahead of those observed for their most recent health insurance company interaction (29%) and last mobile phone store visit (28%).

Harris Poll surveyed 2,311 U.S. adults between July 16 through 23.

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