Over the past two years, the coronavirus pandemic has limited the capacity of public healthcare, and we have seen longer waiting times after each wave of Covid. As a result, more and more people have turned to private healthcare and have paid to receive medical treatment. These patients navigate independently between the available services and the clinics that offer them. Our research shows that people consider medical expertise, who the doctor is, and appointment availability as the three most important factors when planning to seek out private healthcare, though perceived value for money and the range of services offered also play a major role in decision-making.
Based on the results of a representative survey conducted by Behive Consulting on behalf of RMC, the price and the location of the practice are considered by respondents to be much less important than other factors. When planning to make use of private healthcare, people view expertise (1), the treating physician (2), and the available appointment time (3), as the three deciding factors (in that order). It was found that 77.8% of respondents considered expertise to be very important, while 52.9% considered who the doctor is and 51.9% appointment availability as very important. Other deciding factors in order of importance were as follows: wide range of services (50.5%), value for money (50.4%) length of visit (42.9%), prices (38.4%), location of the clinic (28.9%), reputation of the clinic (28.8%). (Respondents were able to indicate several factors.)
"The results of the research reflect the fact that on the basis of either real or perceived factors, patients in Hungary often consider the capacity of public healthcare to be too limited to deal with their complaint. This is shown, for example, by the fact that while there are some factors which are important for everybody – such as expertise and who the doctor is – the availability of appointments is also a decisive factor when choosing a private clinic," comments Anna Nyvelt, BeHive co-founder, as she explains the results. This could be connected to people's experiences during the pandemic, when GPs were unable to receive patients and planned procedures in public healthcare were postponed in order to provide care for Covid patients. "Some private clinics continued to receive patients at that time. This reinforced the experience of patients, who found they were able to get an appointment in private healthcare, often on the very same day in urgent cases,” – adds Dr Gyula Csermely, the founder of RMC Clinics.
Looking at patient demographics, we can see some differences in the deciding factors. Though expertise is equally important for men and women, when it comes to other factors we can see some differences between the sexes. For women, the length of the consultation and who the doctor is, are more important, whereas for men appointment availability took second place. "The research also found that appointment availability is a much more decisive factor for over-60s than the other age groups surveyed. In their case, they are not always concerned only with prevention or screening tests, but in some cases have a complaint that may require immediate diagnosis and treatment," points out Dr Gyula Csermely. "Another notable fact is that for mothers, both the price and value for money are more important than for the population as a whole.”
When making a decision, other important factors and their fulfillment also subconsciously influence patient satisfaction.
When a patient visits a doctor, the patient's experience doesn't just depend on the examination itself. When it comes to the people involved in providing care, naturally the doctor and nurse are the most important. However, other factors play a role, including the behavior of the receptionist and the person who helps book the appointment, waiting times, any offers of additional help along the treatment path, the facilities available and the cleanliness of the clinic. Overall, then, we can say that all verbal and non-verbal mediums and tools of communication contribute to the level of satisfaction. "The patient appreciates it if they receive information regarding the illness, treatment, tests, medication and any side-effects from the doctor or nurse, though too much information can be confusing," explains Dr Gyula Csermely. "It is essential to focus as much as possible on interpersonal care, which includes lots of smaller details, such as active listening, easy-to-understand explanations, praise, offering comfort, a positive attitude, and even accompanying the patient from the waiting room to the examination room.”
The medical specialist believes that is a good idea to involve patients in decisions related to treatment. It is important to do this in an empathetic way, taking into account the patient's personal preferences when deciding on the next step, while also bearing medical considerations in mind. People that work in private healthcare shouldn't forget that in this sphere, patients are more aware that they are making use of a service, as they are physically paying for it. This in contrast to the costs of state healthcare, which are deducted in advance from the patient's salary in the form of national insurance. "The goal should be to ensure that private healthcare providers are aware of and understand to the highest degree possible the patients’ point of view and their expectations, as this is the only way to support them effectively in improving and maintaining their good health," notes Dr Csermely.
About the research: Behive Consulting's quantitative research commissioned by RMC Clinics in 2022 is representative of the adult population in Budapest that has already used private health care. BeHive Consulting, a Hungarian-based company, is one of the first behavioral consulting companies in the region to combine psychology, economics and neuroscience to research and offer solutions to help people improve their decisions.