Why Patients Leave — 4 Nonnegotiable Consumer Expectations

Why Patients Leave — 4 Nonnegotiable Consumer Expectations. A young woman looks above her head at two arrows, once pointing left the other pointing right.

The spotlight on the patient experience burns brightly in health care. Providers invest untold sums of energy and resources to strengthen their ties with consumers. They face intense competition from digital-native businesses trying to deliver unparalleled health care experiences.

In the final analysis, however, what matters is whether patients remain loyal to or leave their providers. Do consumers trust them? Is it easy to work with doctors and their teams? Are there simple-to-use digital channels to keep patients committed to staying with their caregivers?

What’s Driving Patients to Switch Providers

After surveying more than 21,000 consumers since 2017, leaders from Accenture have found some interesting answers and developed conclusions about where health care organizations should invest to improve the patient experience. In a report on its findings issued late last year, Accenture noted that:

  • 30% of respondents selected a new provider in 2021, up from 26% in 2017.
  • 25% switched providers because they were unhappy, up from 18% in 2017.
  • Nearly 80% of patients who switched providers cited poor navigation factors as the reason for leaving. These factors include difficulties in doing business, bad experiences with administrative staff and inadequate digital solutions.

Future Decision-Makers Are a Flight Risk

Switching is more common among younger people, especially Gen Z and millennials. Younger generations are nearly six times more likely to leave their providers. This is particularly important to recognize because these patients are in a unique position as health care decision-makers for both their aging parents and children. Health care organizations’ future growth depends on how well they understand what it takes to keep younger people loyal.

4 Focus Areas for Engagement and Loyalty

The research reveals that to deliver the health experience that people expect today — and to keep people engaged — it’s important to focus on four factors throughout the entire care journey.

1 | Access

An overwhelming majority (71%) of respondents cite access as a top factor in selecting a provider. They value appointment availability, convenience, customer service and the ability to connect with their providers through the patients' preferred channels. While this can be a challenging area to address, organizations that have invested in transformational change are gaining ground.


Develop an omnichannel strategy with robust customer analytics to increase ease of access and be more responsive to patient preferences. Increasingly, patients expect evening and weekend appointments, online appointment scheduling, telehealth and virtual care services that are available when they need them, and they want care locations that are close to where they work and live.

2 | Ease of Doing Business

People who find their providers easy to work with are nine times more likely to stay and three times more likely to stay if their provider is even somewhat easy to work with.


Sweat the details. Carefully analyze patient feedback on the experience of navigating and interacting across the health care journey, customer service, ease of payment processes and value of services delivered, and their trust level in your organization.

3 | Digital Engagement

This is a strong predictor of loyalty. Nearly 80% of patients who describe themselves as “highly digital” (i.e., who typically take a digital-first approach to engagement) are likely to stay with their providers. This is more than 20% greater than all other digital-engagement categories. In addition, people who are highly digital are more likely to find their providers easy to do business with and to trust them.


With stiff competition from retail health disruptors who have long excelled in digital-first strategies with their customers, some health care organizations are having to play catch-up. This will be an increasingly important area to address going forward.

4 | Trust

People who trust their providers are more than five times more likely to stay with them, the research showed.


People trust providers who make them feel heard and informed about diagnoses and treatment and who are clear about what treatment will require. Make sure that your doctors and care teams work well together and are available to answer questions.

Learn More

Attend the AHA-Accenture March 9 webinar “4 Key Drivers for Patient Engagement and Loyalty” from noon to 1 p.m. CST for a deeper dive into this issue. Register now.

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