Health systems have recently been the subject of high-profile media accusations that they prioritize “profits over patients”, as an unflattering New York Times series has framed it.
New consumer survey data from strategic healthcare communications consulting firm Jarrard Inc. shows that while consumers find some merit in these claims, they tend to see their local hospital in a better light. As shown in the graphic above, a majority of US adults believe that, on a national level, hospitals are more focused on making money than caring for patients, and that they don’t do enough to help low-income people access high quality care.
Despite only one in five survey participants having seen news stories alleging hospitals fail to provide enough charity care in exchange for tax breaks, 65 percent of survey respondents find those allegations believable.
But while the consumer perception of hospitals may be suffering nationally, the responses were quite different when consumers were asked about their preferred local hospital. More than half strongly agreed that their preferred local hospital is a good community partner—one that puts patient care ahead of making money.
(Just as with Congress: people love to criticize the institution, while continuing to return their own representatives to Washington.) While the negative national attention can be disheartening, at the end of the day, to consumers, healthcare is local, and health systems must continue to build direct consumer relationships to strengthen patient loyalty.