Patients Are Loyal to Flagship Hospitals, Not Systems

In its first loyalty-based hospital rankings, NRC Health found that consumers are more prone to be loyal to flagship facilities or singular hospitals than hospital systems.

While 90% of the hospitals on the list are a part of larger networks, only 11 systems had multiple hospitals make the list. In addition, nearly 40% of consumers say it makes no difference to them whether a hospital is part of a health care system.

Brian Wynne, vice president and general manager at NRC Health, says that before surveying the 300,000 U.S. consumers for these rankings, he assumed there would be more recognizable names on the list. He was pleasantly surprised to see a mix of facilities across the country, including in smaller markets.

“Ultimately, every system, no matter how big or small, has blind spots in the consumer journey,” he says. “The top hospitals on this list prove that it doesn’t matter to patients if they are part of a huge system or a community hospital or somewhere in between. As long as their health care services are intentionally designed to inspire loyalty, patients will recognize those efforts, regardless of a hospital’s affiliation.”

The Winners

The facilities that made this year’s top 10 list were:

1. CHI Memorial Hospital Chattanooga

2. New York Presbyterian Weill Cornell Medical Center

3. Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania

4. University of Utah Health

5. McLeod Regional Medical Center — Florence

6. Nebraska Medicine

7. University of Chicago Medicine

8. University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics

9. UW Health (Madison, WI)

10. Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian

How Do These Facilities Build Loyalty?

Larry Schumacher, CEO at CHI Memorial Chattanooga, whose hospital came in at No. 1 on this year’s list, says that the hospital tries to portray itself authentically, allowing its physicians to be the voice of consumer messaging. In 2017, the hospital created Vision 2020, a “people-centered strategic journey for the future of the organization” that pushes the hospital to think of customers less as patients and more as people.

“We are compelled to think about how we deliver care with a deeper customer focus,” Schumacher says. “Our customers are patients, prospective patients, family members and even vendor partners that help us to provide quality health care. What is the lifetime value of each of those relationships?”

Robert Braithwaite, CEO and president of Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian, which came in at No. 10 on this year’s list, says that his facility tries to give personalized care to each patient by focusing on a culture of ownership, which he says means that everyone owns the experience of patients — no matter if they’re a doctor, nurse or janitor.

“Our patients feel this and often tell us Hoag is unlike any other health care facility they have encountered,” he says.

Although consumer trust in health care is down over the past year, Braithwaite says that trust is everything for Hoag, and he believes that trust can be built with work, values, care and compassion.

“We must also be mindful of the needs of our communities and evolve as they do,” he says. “Everything we do at Hoag, no matter how small or how large, is done with the community’s best interest in mind. As we develop new programs and services, the one question that guides it all is, ‘How will this benefit the communities and the families we serve?’”

CHI Memorial’s Schumacher says that the future of health care requires facilities to provide the best of care for people who visit. This can include clinical innovation, alliance with the community, convenience, transparency and building deep, trusting connections with customers, physicians and providers. In short, he says that hospitals must partner “with others in the community to create better health for all.”

About the Author | Hal Conick

Hal Conick is a staff writer for the AMA’s magazines and e-newsletters. He can be reached at or on Twitter at @HalConick.