In 2013, the Competition Commission investigation into the private healthcare sector published its initial findings; it will mean change in the private healthcare sector that will affect consultants, GPs and their private practices.
But what can private consultants learn from the Competition Commission investigation? What does it say about the relationship between patients, consultants and private hospitals?
The Competition Commission invested heavily in research to understand how the private healthcare market works. They interviewed and surveyed large samples of patients, GPs and consultants. The detailed analyses and reports are available online. But you don’t need to wade through them. At Private Healthcare UK, we have dug deep into the published documents to provide you with some insight into current trends in the private patient market.
The private patient referral process
The research highlighted the following:
- 60% of patients who saw a consultant privately were referred by a GP.
- 18% were referred by another consultant or health professional.
- 12% went direct without a GP referral.
- Only 2% were referred by their health insurer.
- Self-pay patients were far more likely to have seen a consultant without any referral.
The GP referral
Looking at GP referral to private consultants, the research found that:
- One in five private patients who saw a consultant and were referred by a GP said that the GP suggested more than one private consultant to them.
- 40% of private patients who had been referred to a consultant already knew or had a good idea of which consultant they wanted to see prior to being referred.
- Self-pay private hospital patients were more likely to already know which consultant they wanted to see.
- 55% of GPs said they typically suggest two or more private consultants to their patients.
Seeking information about consultants
Where do patients go for information about the choice of private consultants and private hospitals? Here’s what the research says:
- 47% of private patients looked up consultant and hospital information online.
- For private patients in London, 63% looked up information online.
- And for self-pay patients, 63% looked up information online.
And what did they look for?
The most important factor was information about the consultant’s reputation, expertise and specialism. The clinical expertise of the consultant was twice as important as the clinical quality of the hospital.
What does this tell us?
It’s clear that the traditional route of GP referral direct to the preferred consultant is becoming less of a “safe bet” in attracting private patients. More patients, particularly those in the growing self-pay sector, are making their own choice of consultant based on a GP’s “short list”. More patients are going direct to consultants without a GP referral. And the prime source of information is online.
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