Religious Affiliation and Service Quality Differentiation in Hospital Settings

Deidre Popovich, Kelli Frias, and Mikaela Trussell

Healthcare Services
Healthcare Services

Abstract:

Service quality is critical for US hospitals as healthcare becomes increasingly consumer-driven, hospital stays decline, and hospitals face consolidation trends. For many hospitals, consolidation means governance and strategic objectives from a religious-affiliated healthcare system. For many patients, religious-affiliated hospitals prohibit access to health information and services. Increasingly, many religious-affiliated healthcare systems promote their faith-based objectives as a point of service quality differentiation. However, extant literature has given limited attention to religious affiliation and service quality, and discussions about service encounters that may hinge on the consumers' faith versus scientific views are sparse. Thus, we respond to a call for more customer-centric ideas of healthcare. Using data from five studies, including an exploratory qualitative study and four experiments, we examine the impact of a hospital's religious affiliation on staff and patient perceptions. The exploratory study indicates that religious affiliation can influence providers' perceptions of their roles and duties within the organization. Although nurses' perceptions are often positive, patient perceptions seem to be more nuanced. We find that a religious mission can be detrimental to patient perceptions of service quality and the perceived innovativeness of their care. However, this is less true for consumers who are high in religiosity and believe that science and religion are compatible. The findings have implications for medical providers, policymakers, and consumers.