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Open Access Research article

A three-model comparison of the relationship between quality, satisfaction and loyalty: an empirical study of the Chinese healthcare system

Ping Lei1* and Alain Jolibert2

Author Affiliations

1 Groupe Ecole Supérieure de Commerce Chambéry Savoie, France, 12 Avenue du Lac d’Annecy, Le Bourget du Lac Cedex, Chambéry, Savoie, 73381, France

2 Centre d’études et de Recherches Appliquées à la Gestion de Université Pierre Mendes France, Grenoble 2, France

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BMC Health Services Research 2012, 12:436  doi:10.1186/1472-6963-12-436

Published: 30 November 2012

Abstract

Background

Previous research has addressed the relationship between customer satisfaction, perceived quality and customer loyalty intentions in consumer markets. In this study, we test and compare three theoretical models of the quality–satisfaction–loyalty relationship in the Chinese healthcare system.

Methods

This research focuses on hospital patients as participants in the process of healthcare procurement. Empirical data were obtained from six Chinese public hospitals in Shanghai. A total of 630 questionnaires were collected in two studies. Study 1 tested the research instruments, and Study 2 tested the three models. Confirmatory factor analysis was used to assess the scales’ construct validity by testing convergent and discriminant validity. A structural equation model (SEM) specified the distinctions between each construct. A comparison of the three theoretical models was conducted via AMOS analysis.

Results

The results of the SEM demonstrate that quality and satisfaction are distinct concepts and that the first model (satisfaction mediates quality and loyalty) is the most appropriate one in the context of the Chinese healthcare environment.

Conclusions

In this study, we test and compare three theoretical models of the quality–satisfaction–loyalty relationship in the Chinese healthcare system. Findings show that perceived quality improvement does not lead directly to customer loyalty. The strategy of using quality improvement to maintain patient loyalty depends on the level of patient satisfaction. This implies that the measurement of patient experiences should include topics of importance for patients’ satisfaction with health care services.

Keywords:
Perceived quality; Patient satisfaction; Patient loyalty; Models comparison; Health service