This blog post is a case summary of a recent market research project completed by Research & Marketing Strategies (RMS). All hospitals and health systems should use market research to help guide any type of hospital merger or new affiliation. It’s critical to understand perceptions and challenges among staff and physicians, as well as the general community. One early step in the strategic process is to conduct a Community Perception Study among residents in your hospital’s primary service area (PSA). The sections below summarize a recent project with RMS Healthcare.

Hospital Mergers, Acquisitions, Affiliations

Background: A newly formed healthcare system partnered with Research & Marketing Strategies, Inc. (RMS) to determine community awareness and perception of the area hospitals and healthcare organizations in an effort to develop a new business model, system name, and branding campaign. The study also identified consumer preferences regarding healthcare delivery awareness, usage, needs, and unmet needs.

Approach: In order to obtain the desired information, RMS recommended conducting a community perception telephone survey among a sampling of households within the PSA and SSA (Secondary Service Area). RMS completed at total of 400+ surveys to ensure that the results were statistically significant with a low margin of error. This also allowed for segmented cross-tabs to carry larger sample bases (e.g., location, age, gender, etc.). RMS utilized its in-house call center QualiSight,to administer a telephone survey (approximately 12 minutes in length and 45 questions). To encourage participation, a sweepstakes of three $100 gift cards was recommended and included. Once fieldwork was complete, the RMS Healthcare team prepared a PowerPoint report which included a dashboard of key findings, recommendations and action items, and a full deck of question by question results.

Results: Here were a few key takeaways from the community perception study regarding the new hospital affiliation:

  • Knowledge of the affiliation in the community was high, as 70% of respondents referenced they were aware. Impressions of the affiliation were generally positive with 64% saying they viewed the affiliation positively, while only 11% viewed it negatively. Key drivers for the positive impressions of the affiliation revolved around assumed cost reductions in care and also improved quality of care through the consolidation of resources. Among the 11% that viewed the affiliation negatively, some drew conclusions pointed to the potential reduction in jobs and a lack of choice among competing hospitals.
  • Both hospitals that recently affiliated enjoyed a high brand equity in the market. In total (through both unaided and aided recall), both of these hospitals scored 98% awareness in the community. Both hospitals scored equally positive impressions. One hospital consistently outperformed the other on service preference for all categories tested except heart and stroke care. These two hospitals thoroughly dominated the market as the hospitals of choice in the greater community.
  • Impressions of area hospitals were largely formed by personal experiences at those hospitals. When respondents were asked which sources they used to form impressions about hospitals, 78% cited personal experiences with the hospital. One-third (33%) named word-of-mouth from friends and family and another 9% cited doctors or nurses. All forms of mass media or online communication had minimal impact, being cited by 5% or fewer. Just over half (53%) of respondents said they had seen or heard something about either hospital in the past 3 months. Those who had seen or heard something were most likely to have encountered the information via television (50%), newspaper (33%) or word-of-mouth (21%). These sources were driven by older populations in the market areas. Younger populations (under 45) were more likely to see or hear news through websites and word-of-mouth. These secondary sources seem to have little impact on overall hospital impressions and NPS ratings.
  • The Net Promoter Score or NPS® is based on the fundamental perspective that every organization’s customers, members, or patients can be divided into three categories: Promoters (9 to 10 on a 1 to 10 likelihood to recommend scale – loyal enthusiasts who will keep using and refer others, fueling growth), Passives (7 to 8 – satisfied but unenthusiastic customers who are vulnerable to competitive offerings), and Detractors (less than 7 – unhappy customers who can damage a brand and impede growth through negative word-of-mouth). Organizations and institutions track these groups to obtain a clear measure of performance. NPS is calculated by taking the percentage of customers who are promoters and subtracting the percentage of detractors. Based on data, one hospital had an NPS rating was +45. The NPS rating for the other hospital was +42. This was among respondents that had been treated or had someone in their household treated at the hospital in the past three years.
  • Despite the fact patient choice and patient empowerment are growing trends in the healthcare industry, primary care physicians (PCPs) still wield considerable influence over hospital choice in the market area. Ninety-four percent of respondents said they have a regular primary care physician (PCP). Among this group, almost two-thirds (65%) rated their PCP’s influence over their choice as hospitals as either a 4 or a 5 (on a 1 to 5 scale with “5” being significant influence). A cross-tabulation of the data reveals that the level of influence is very strongly tied to the age of the patient, with younger respondents generally citing the lower degrees of PCP influence and older respondents citing the highest.

If you are interested in using market research to help guide your team through your hospital merger, acquisition, or new affiliation contact our Business Development Director Sandy Baker at or by calling 1-866-567-5422.