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Surprise! Convenience isn't king

A look at what Core's market research study reveals

Convenience is the name of the healthcare game today. We see health systems scrambling to up their convenience quotient in a number of ways. Online scheduling. Extended hours. Telemedicine. Walk-in clinics. While we know these features are welcome enhancements to the patient experience, how do we know which “convenience” is a key driver for a healthcare consumer?

That’s one thing we sought to learn as part of Core Health’s inaugural research study, “Consumer Perspectives in Healthcare.” This research was designed to help to identify key drivers of healthcare choice so that our clients – healthcare marketers – could leverage this information while branding and positioning their health systems.

The study was conducted in partnership with Cheryl Stone & Associates as a nationwide, online panel survey from Oct. 25, to Nov. 5, 2018. A total of 1,501 interviews were completed with a confidence level of 95%. Quotas were used to ensure replication of the U.S. population.

Access and convenience was one of six drivers of healthcare choice consumers were asked to evaluate as part of our research study. Other drivers included innovation; performance and results; caring and compassion; a care experience personalized to meet needs and preferences; and a focus on wellness and prevention. Based on other research studies, our extensive work with health system clients and general industry chatter, we were surprised to learn that access and convenience ranked in the bottom two drivers of healthcare choice.

That’s not to say that access and convenience isn’t important. In fact, 43% of our sample ranked access and convenience as “very important” on four-point scale when ranking the driver category. For health systems claiming this important differentiator, the insights our data reveals is not that consumers value access and convenience, but rather, how they define it.

As one respondent noted, convenience could be an indicator of the care quality: “If it’s not convenient, maybe the care is questionable.”

Preference for quick, in-person access continues to trump telemedicine

While the usage of telemedicine continues to grow, consumers still prefer in-person appointments. Sixty-two percent of the respondents in our survey ranked, “You can get an appointment at a doctor’s office quickly when you need it” as the feature most likely to demonstrate a health system’s commitment to convenience. And, 53% of our respondents ranked “Has doctors and facilities that are easy for you to get to” as “very important” when defining access. “Flexible office hours to fit your schedule” was rated a “very important” indicator of access and convenience by 46% of our sample size.

In spite of the ever-increasing popularity of telemedicine, convenience-seeking consumers aren’t as likely to define a health system as “convenient” just because this service is offered. “Offers telemedicine services 24/7” was considered the least important indicator of convenience, with only 22% of the sample ranking it a “very important” indicator of convenience.

Indicators of Access/Convenience

Very Important Somewhat Important
You can get an appointment at a doctor's office quickly when you need it
Has doctors and facilities that are easy for you to get to
Has doctors and facilities close to home
Flexible office hours to fit your schedule
You have a choice of many ways to get care
Has an electronic Patient Portal
Offers telemedicine services 24/7
Has doctors and facilities close to work

Close to home or close to work?

Consumers who prioritize access and convenience overwhelmingly look for locations close to home instead of close to work. Forty-eight percent of our sample rated “has doctors and facilities close to home” as “very important,” compared to 24% of our sample who believe having “doctors and facilities close to work” is very important.

Electronic patient portals are now table stakes

Only 22% of healthcare consumers consider having a patient portal to be a “very important” indicator of a health system’s access and convenience offering. While our research didn’t explore this further, it’s likely that meaningful use has created the expectation that health systems offer easy access to electronic health records.

What else?

When asked, “What else shows that a health system is convenient, before you ever use care there?” 375 respondents identified additional convenience indicators. Many of these responses related to wait time or being seen on time at an appointment. Many others focused on parking or ease of physical access into a healthcare facility.

“Convenient means easy to get to from the highway, ample parking, excellent internal facilities,” said one respondent.

Interested in learning more? You can access Core Health’s complete research about consumer healthcare drivers of choice here.


Stephanie Burton, APR is the Director of Healthcare Marketing at Core Health.


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