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How independent practices effectively compete with larger health systems through quality patient care

Learn how independent healthcare providers can offer higher quality patient care than larger health systems.

How independent practices effectively compete with larger health systems through quality patient care

At a Glance

  • Patients feel they receive a higher level of quality of care from an independent provider
  • Providers who practice active listening and employ strong communication with patients and staff are more likely to experience long-term patient retention
  • Technology can boost smaller practices to a competitive level

As an independent practice, it can be difficult to compete with larger health system giants. It can feel like independent practices are fighting an uphill battle because of their: 

  • Bigger budgets
  • Increased visibility
  • Larger scope of available services  

Luckily, the healthcare industry is witnessing a notable shift in patient preferences, with many leaning towards independent providers over health system-based providers. 

Tebra's 2023 Independent Healthcare vs. Corporate and Health System-Based Providers Survey gathered input from 1,146 patients and 101 healthcare providers to determine how independent providers can compete with corporate entities. Instead of remaining with corporate providers, Tebra found that 57% of patients were willing to leave larger health systems. The overarching finding was that patients are willing to switch from larger health systems to independent practices due to the quality of patient care.

Let’s explore what patients are stating are their priorities when choosing a provider and how independent practices can use that information to compete with healthcare giants.

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Why patients are switching to independent providers

If corporate healthcare providers typically have more resources, why are patients willing to move to independent practices? Understanding patient motivation to find a new provider can help differentiate your practice from larger health-based systems.

A desire for more time with providers

A significant 41% of patients report wanting more time with their healthcare providers, a trend reflecting various underlying needs and expectations. Longer consultations provide the opportunity for patients to: 

  • Ask questions
  • Understand the nuances of their health issues
  • Grasp the implications of different treatment options 

This benefits patients as Empowering Patients: Promoting Patient Education and Health Literacy. These patients believe that independent practices are more likely to give them this time.

The need for attentive and responsive healthcare

This extended time is also important for building a more substantial and trusting relationship between the patient and the provider. Tebra’s survey reported that almost half (47%) of patients reported they wanted a provider who listened. Patients value the sense of being heard and understood, which is more achievable in an unhurried, attentive setting.

Patients feel that independent providers can meet the need for responsiveness by ensuring prompt responses to patient inquiries. ”

Patients feel that independent providers can meet the need for responsiveness by ensuring prompt responses to patient inquiries through easily accessible messaging systems and implementing flexible scheduling systems. In fact, 26% of respondents directly linked easier appointment bookings with quality of care from their providers.

The role of expertise in patient preference

In Tebra’s study, 27% of patients stated that they felt they got a better quality of care due to the expertise of an independent provider. When patients associate healthcare providers with high levels of expertise, they often feel more confident in the quality of care they receive. 

All of these survey responses boil down to patients valuing quality of care. Their belief is that independent practices are more capable of meeting these needs than larger healthcare corporations, hence their willingness to switch.

How independent practices can identify and measure quality of care

If patients value quality of care, and believe that independent providers are better at providing it, effectively competing with larger health systems, let’s explore how you can identify and measure quality to offer patients better personal attention at your practice.

What constitutes quality of care?

Quality of care in healthcare is a multifaceted concept that encompasses various aspects of patient treatment and interaction. Here are some key elements that constitute quality of care:

  • Effective treatment
  • Strong doctor-patient relationships
  • Trust
  • Attentive staff
  • Continuity and coordination of care
  • Accessibility

Quality of patient care is not just about the medical procedures themselves but also about how care is delivered and how patients perceive their experiences. 

Using technology to measure quality of care

Independent practices have the opportunity to use technological advances in healthcare to measure their quality of care and then utilize that data to improve.

Using technology to measure quality of care can include:

  • Electronic Health Records (EHR): EHRs track patient data to enhance treatment decisions and outcome monitoring.
  • Patient Portals: These portals improve patient engagement and satisfaction by providing access to their own health information.
  • Patient Experience Surveys: Surveys collect patient feedback to evaluate and enhance care quality.
  • Practice Management Software: This software streamlines administrative tasks, increasing focus on patient care.
  • Health Information Exchange (HIE): HIEs facilitate secure data sharing across settings, improving care continuity and quality.

These tools can provide actionable insights to enhance patient satisfaction and treatment efficacy.

Building strong patient-provider relationships for improved quality of care

According to both providers and patients, the top 3 qualities that equal a strong patient-provider relationship are: 

  • Trustworthiness
  • Active listening
  • Strong communication

In fact, 65% of patients prefer independent providers for their stronger personal relationships. Below are 3 strategies to build stronger patient-provider relationships.

The impact of quality time 

Tebra's findings emphasize the importance of spending quality time with your patients. More time with healthcare providers can lead to more personalized care. It allows providers to consider the patient's lifestyle, emotional health, and other factors that might influence their overall well-being and treatment success.

More time with healthcare providers can lead to more personalized care. ”

Providers can allocate sufficient time for each patient to understand their options and address patient concerns effectively.

The value of active listening

Almost half (47%) of Tebra’s survey respondents want a provider who listens. Working on your active listening skills leads to a better relationship, which then leads to better health outcomes.

Providers can achieve this by maintaining consistent and transparent communication, utilizing physical and verbal listening cues during conversations with patients, and ensuring that patients feel heard and valued.

Trustworthiness in patient care

Patients have reported healthier behaviors, a higher quality of life with fewer symptoms, and being happier with treatment when they had higher trust in their healthcare providers.

To build trust with your patients, providers should strive to be transparent about treatment options and outcomes, and maintain open lines of communication with patients.

Patient Perspectives Report

More ways independent healthcare providers can improve patient quality of care over larger health systems

There are several ways in which smaller practices can offer a higher quality of care:

Embrace innovation and technology

In addition to adopting technologies to measure quality of care, independent practices can also use them to enhance patient care. Instituting electronic health records, telemedicine, online appointment scheduling with electronic reminders, and online patient portals are all easy solutions to bring to your practice. 

These tools streamline processes, improve patient access to care, and foster better patient-provider communication.

Train and develop your staff

Similarly to your requirement for CE, continuous training and education for your staff is crucial. Providers should invest in regular staff training to keep up with the latest medical advancements and patient care techniques.

Enact patient-centered approaches

Providers can shift toward more patient-focused care models, such as value-based reimbursement models, and implement shared decision-making processes where patients are actively involved in their treatment plans.

Take advantage of more autonomy

Independent practices tend to have more flexibility to think outside the box, since they don’t have as much red tape to get through when making decisions. They can leverage this advantage and compete with larger health systems to make informed improvements by: 

Networking with local organizations and patient advocacy groups can also enhance their visibility and trust within the community.

Beat hospitals and corporations at their own game

At the end of the day, you need to attract patients to your practice and then retain them so that your practice can thrive. Despite the challenges that can come with being independent in a world full of corporate health systems, you absolutely can compete. 

Patients are more educated and discerning about their providers. They are seeking out a higher quality of care with stronger relationships, and many are turning to smaller practices to find that. If you deepen your relationship with your patients and strengthen your quality of care, you can build a practice patients want to join.

Learn more about Tebra’s study of independent practices vs. larger health systems by downloading the independent provider playbook.

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Jenn Green

Jenn Green has been using her BA in fine arts from York University in Toronto to publish articles on The Intake, Homebase, Master School, and Airalo. Jenn’s personal health challenge that required significant medical attention drives her passion for writing about healthcare-related topics. She believes ongoing education is critical to successful outcomes and to ensure providers offer the best patient care possible.

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