At a Glance
- Tebra surveyed 1,146 patients to see how independent practices compare to health systems and corporate-based practices.
- 51% of patients feel like they get better quality of care from independent practice providers.
- Patients who prefer health systems and corporate-based doctors over independent doctors cite conveniences like “accepts insurance” and comprehensive services.
- Patients who prefer independent practices say personal relationships and quality care top their reasons.
Healthcare consolidation has been happening over decades, with mergers and acquisitions taking over news cycles. It seems like we’re reaching a tipping point in the United States. According to an American Medical Association survey, only 46.7% of doctors worked in wholly physician-owned practices in 2022.
The industry has a lot to say about it — but what do those who matter most, the patients, think?
Tebra surveyed 1,146 US adults with current healthcare providers to learn about their preferences between independent healthcare providers and health systems and corporate-based providers.
Here are some of the key findings from Tebra's 2023 Independent Healthcare vs. Corporate and Health System-Based Providers Survey.
How do patients find providers?
According to patients in our survey, referrals are still the #1 way they find their healthcare providers, whether independent or corporate-based. Insurance provider websites top the list for referrals (20%), tied with referrals from other healthcare professionals and closely followed by referrals from other patients (18%).
“According to patients in our survey, referrals are still the #1 way they find their healthcare providers, whether independent or corporate-based. ”
Online search comes in at #4, with 17% of patients saying that’s how they found their provider. Patients surveyed would rather hear directly from people they know and trust than from a Google search.
What’s the takeaway for healthcare providers? Building relationships with insurance companies, other providers, or patients should be a top priority. You’ll also see that relationship-building is a strength for independent practices — and a competitive advantage.
How do patients choose between independent practices and corporate/health-system providers?
Corporate and health-system-based providers are growing in number as independent practices dwindle. Yet, of the surveyed patients who prefer big health systems, the majority (68%) say it’s because it accepts their insurance.
The other top reasons cited are mostly for convenience: they offer comprehensive services and have a perceived higher appointment availability.
But convenience isn’t the only thing patients are looking for. When asked why they prefer independent providers over corporate providers and health systems, 65% said it’s for more personal relationships. The other top cited reason? They believe the quality of care is higher.
Accepted insurance comes in at #3 with 50%. Patients in our survey prefer the convenience of the corporate health systems and the personal and quality care of independent practices. This is a win for independent practices. You already have the quality care patients want most. And the patient convenience and service? That you can improve.
“Patients also overwhelmingly report that they feel like they get better quality care from independent practice providers (51%) over health systems (40%) and corporate providers (9%). ”
Patients also overwhelmingly report that they feel like they get better quality care from independent practice providers (51%) over health systems (40%) and corporate providers (9%).
Notably, 58% of Gen Zers reported they feel they get better quality of care from health system-based providers, while other generations said the opposite. This may be an opportunity for independent providers to find new ways to connect with and serve their younger patients.
Why do patients switch healthcare providers?
What motivates a patient to switch healthcare providers? They have different motivations depending on whether they switch from a corporate or health-system provider to an independent practice or vice versa.
Patients switching to independently owned practices are looking for healthcare that is more personalized to them and their needs.
Why do patients switch from corporate healthcare and health systems to independent practices?
- They want more personalized care: 57%
- They want a provider who listens: 47%
- They want their provider to spend more time with them: 41%
This also aligns with what patients say constitutes a strong patient-provider relationship. We had them rank these attributes, and trustworthiness came out on top.
Convenience seems to be a key factor for patients looking to shift from an independently operated practice to a health system or corporate-based provider. Here are the top 3 reasons they make the switch:
- They can get lab services at the same location: 42%
- They can access a range of services under one roof: 41%
- They can see multiple providers without having to resubmit paperwork: 37%
How patients feel about practice waiting rooms
A critical part of the patient experience occurs before meeting with the provider. The waiting room is many patients’ first impressions of the practice and the visit — what happens there can make or break the patient experience.
Patients reported that their last waiting room experience had them waiting for a doctor for:
- 6–10 minutes: 29%
- 11–15 minutes: 25%
- 16–30 minutes: 17%
However, patients aren’t that frustrated with the waiting room experience as a whole. Most (42%) reported they were not at all frustrated or hardly frustrated (27%) with the wait they experienced on their last visit.
“Waiting rooms themselves are also meeting patient expectations, for the most part. ”
Waiting rooms themselves are also meeting patient expectations, for the most part. Here are what patients saw on their last visit and what patients want from the experience:
Could your waiting room use an upgrade? Here are 5 ways to make your waiting room more pleasant.
How do patients feel about healthcare consolidation?
Patients have opinions on continued healthcare consolidation, and 53% of those we surveyed worry that hospital acquisitions will increase care costs. And according to a report conducted by the National Conference of State Legislatures, these fears aren’t entirely unfounded.
When it comes to speed and convenience, independent practices may have some catching up to do. But building patient relationships and delivering quality, personalized care is where they shine.
The results in this report are from an online survey of 1,146 US adults with current healthcare providers that was fielded from October 20 to 23, 2023. Among survey participants, 51% identified as female, and 49% identified as male. The generational breakdown was 16% Gen Z, 29% Millennials, 27% Gen X, 26% Baby Boomers, and 2% Silent Generation.
Tebra’s mission is to unlock better healthcare for every patient by supporting practitioners in the development of their private practices. By developing a single operating system that forms the foundation of a private practice, Tebra’s software solution enables physicians to thrive.
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