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uni'wissen 02(4)-2011_ENG

Where do patients feel like they are in better hands? Economists have found out that factors like compe- tence, trustworthiness, and well-being are decisive for the choice of a hospital. Photo: Freiburg University Medical Center ties, on the other hand, are only interested in covering their costs, while their primary goal is to help patients. As charitable organizations they also enjoy preferential tax treatment. As a rule, hospitals run by states or cities are also primarily interested in providing optimal care. Customers Assign Human Characteristics to Companies The researchers did not attempt to determine which type of hospital – public, nonprofit, or pri- vate – is best. Rather, they only wanted to find out what influence the form of ownership of a hospital has on the patient’s decision to seek care there. They found out that ownership can in- deed be a factor in how people perceive a hospi- tal and in which hospital they end up choosing. This choice is often influenced by stereotypes: “In marketing we view businesses as personalities,” explains Drevs, because customers often assign human characteristics to companies. The factors Drevs determined to be important for the choice of a hospital include warmth, well-being, compe- tence, and trustworthiness. The factors that were most important for the participants in the study were competence and trustworthiness. Seemann emphasizes that these are subjective percep- tions that do not necessarily reflect reality – but this makes them no less relevant for marketing. The test subjects perceived each type of hos- pital in a different way: While they rated private hospitals as highly competent but not very trust- worthy, their perception of nonprofit hospitals was the exact opposite. The results for public health care facilities were not as clear-cut; they landed somewhere in the middle. The team drew the following conclusion from their findings: “Nonprofit hospitals should start using their ownership status as a selling point. Even a single sentence on their website can be enough,” says Drevs. Currently, most nonprofit health care facilities hardly mention their chari- table status at all, because many of them are afraid to be perceived as being less competent “Many patients regard the idea of profit in the health care sector with suspicion” the team showed them websites of fictive hospi- tals, some of them privately run, others public, and still others nonprofit organizations. The re- searchers found out that most patients do not take this factor into account at all as a criterion for choosing a hospital. What’s more, the hospi- tals themselves don’t emphasize their form of ownership as a selling point either, although it can have great influence on the quality of care. “Private hospitals have to operate the most effi- ciently,” explains Tscheulin. Their primary goal is to maximize profits. Nonprofit health care facili- 37uni'wissen 04