Happy patients not only keep coming back, they also recommend your medical practice to their friends and family members.
It’s no surprise, then, that most medical practices are looking for more effective ways to measure, understand and improve the patient experience. Many healthcare organizations are taking a lesson from other industries that rely on the Net Promoter Score, a simple tool that gauges how loyal customers (or patients) are to a service or product.
Fred Reichheld, a fellow at Bain & Company, first introduced the Net Promoter Score* in a 2003 article in the Harvard Business Review. By analyzing customer feedback and purchasing data, Reichheld demonstrated a correlation between the Net Promoter Score and growth. Across numerous industries, those companies with strong customer relationships grew faster than competitors with weak customer relationships.
The Net Promoter Score revolves around this basic question: On a 0-10 scale, “How likely is it that you would recommend (a given company or medical practice) to a friend or colleague?” Based on those ratings, customers (or patients) are divided into three categories: “Promoters,” or most loyal customers with ratings of 9-10; “passives” with ratings of 7-8; and “detractors” with ratings of 0-6.
Net Promoter Score is calculated by subtracting the percentage of detractors from the percentage of promoters, leading to a highest score of +100 (all promoters) and lowest score of -100 (all detractors).
According to Jason Barro, a partner at Bain, the Net Promoter Score is useful for medical practices because it helps them understand “whether their patients are happy and loyal and it why they are getting or losing business.”
In fact, Barro and other experts cite numerous reasons why practices should not only pay attention to their Net Promoter Score but should also incorporate it into a systematic effort to improve patient loyalty and the patient experience.
1. NPS has been shown to correlate with performance
Across industries, the Net Promoters Score has been shown to be a strong predictor of growth, and healthcare is no exception, Barro says. In a 2012 issue brief, for example, Bain described a survey of hospitals in Belgium, concluding that “patients with the highest scores were four times as likely as others to return” and were willing to travel farther to do so.
2. The score provides a quick way to track patients’ feedback.
Digestive Health Specialists, which has five locations in and around Winston-Salem and Greensboro, N.C., tracks its Net Promoter Score weekly “to see if it has increased or decreased,” says Cindy Health, patient experience specialist at the practice. “It is good for an overall glance to see if there have been any major problems. Luckily for us, it has stayed pretty stable,” she adds.
3. Patients’ comments help you improve your operations.
When taken together, the Net Promoter Score and patients’ comments provide a holistic view of what patients like and don’t like about your medical practice, providing insights into changes you can make to better meet their needs.
According to Andrew Gallan, an assistant marketing professor at the Kellstadt Graduate School of Business at DePaul University in Chicago, when healthcare organizations focus on becoming more patient-friendly, their scores go up.
For example, Gwinnett Center Medical Associates, an internal medicine practice in Lawrenceville, Ga., added a full-time medical assistant to the staff last winter based on feedback from patients about long wait times.
While monitoring both the Net Promoter Score and patients’ comments, Shari Crooker, the practice administrator, noticed a pattern of remarks about time spent in the waiting room. When she discussed the issue with the nursing staff, she learned that they often got “bogged down” by procedures, such as EKGs, or ear cleanings. The nurses took care of those tasks after providers left the exam rooms, meaning that subsequent “patients had to wait longer in the waiting room,” Crooker says. “That was an eye-opener. I never thought to look at it that way.”
To fix the problem, the medical assistant now performs several types of time-consuming procedures in a room designated solely for that purpose, Crooker says.
4. The score is a good place to begin conversations with staff about patients’ perspectives on the clinic visit.
For instance, Digestive Health Specialists uses its Net Promoter Score as a tool to educate clinicians and staff about the patient experience and to illustrate opportunities for improvement.
“We use it for positive encouragement: Here is what is going well, and here are some things we need to work on,” says Heath, the patient experience specialist.
5. The Net Promoter Score also complements other patient-engagement tools.
As Barro explains, “If you have sources of information that are good, this should be additive. We see lots of clients that combine information from all sources,” such as focus groups, one-on-one conversations, surveys and social media. “You just need to figure out which pieces of the business are working well, which ones aren’t and what to do about it.”
Want to learn more?
Read Frederick Reichheld’s 2003 Harvard Business Review article.
Read Andrew Gallan’s blog post about using Net Promoter Scores in healthcare.
Read Bain’s brief “Introducing the Net Promoter System.”
Read Bain’s brief “Customer Advocacy: The Path to Growth in Healthcare.”
*Net Promoter, Net Promoter Score and NPS are registered trademarks of Bain & Company, Inc., Satmetrix Systems, Inc., and Fred Reichheld.