Online reviews and star ratings are the most important factor in choosing a new healthcare provider, according to a new survey from Press Ganey, a provider of patient satisfaction surveys. According to the data, this online information is more important for consumers when choosing a doctor than a referral from another doctor and is more than twice as important when choosing a primary care doctor.
In fact, 83% of those surveyed said they went online to read a doctor’s reviews. after receive a recommendation from another supplier.
The trend of online research reflects not only the growing familiarity of all generations with the Internet, but also the growing consumerization of healthcare, said Thomas Jeffrey, president of the Sullivan / Luallin Group, a patient experience consulting firm. . Medscape Medical News.
“According to patient satisfaction surveys, people are becoming more consumers of health care than in the past,” he notes. “Historically, we didn’t think of healthcare as a consumer product. But, with high deductibles and co-payments, doctor visits can be a pretty big expense. touching people’s wallets, they become more savvy buyers. “
Digital preferences for suppliers were gaining “positive momentum” even before the COVID-19 pandemic, but the crisis “has led to an increase in some digital consumer behavior,” said Press Ganey’s report.
Jeffrey agrees, noting that this finding matches what Sullivan / Luallin found in his research. “I think the pandemic has made people engage more online,” he says. “The highest net promoter score [likelihood to recommend in market surveys] for a pharmacy is the Amazon Pharmacy, which is an online delivery service. Then you have telehealth tours, which are more convenient in many ways. “
How patients research online
When choosing a new general practitioner, 51.1% go online first; 23.8% are looking for a referral from another health care provider; and 4.4% get information from an insurer or benefit manager, according to the survey.
The factors that matter most to consumers when choosing a supplier, in order, are online physician ratings and reviews, current physician referral, facility reviews and reviews, as well as the quality and completeness of a physician’s profile on a website. or online directory. The doctor’s online presence and the quality of his website are also important.
According to Press Ganey, search engines like Google are the most used digital resources, with 65.4% of consumers using them to find a doctor. However, consumers now use an average of 2.7 sites in their search. The main destinations are a hospital or clinic site, WebMD, Healthgrades and Facebook. (Medscape is owned by WebMD.)
Compared to 2019, the report says, there was a 22.8% decrease in the use of search engines to seek a doctor and a 53.7% increase in the use of medical review sites. healthcare such as Healthgrades and Vitals.
When reading supplier reviews, consumers look for more recent reviews and want the reviews to be “authentic and informative.” They also appreciate the number of stars. Eighty-four percent of those surveyed said they would not book an appointment with a referred provider who scored below four stars.
Overall, the main reasons people are dissuaded from making an appointment are difficulty contacting the office, poor quality of online reviews, and an average online rating of less than four stars.
The vast majority of those surveyed (77%) said they believed internet reviews reflected their own experience with a vendor organization, and only 2.6% said the reviews were inaccurate. Another finding from the survey indicates that this patient attention to criticism from their own provider is not just a curiosity: Fifty-seven percent of Baby Boomers and 45% of Millennials / Gen Z’ers said they had written online reviews of a doctor or hospital.
Patient loyalty factors
Press Ganey’s survey asked which of several factors, in addition to excellent care, patients weighed in when giving a five-star review to a healthcare provider.
The quality of customer service was rated first by 70.8% of respondents, followed by the cleanliness of the facilities (67.5%), communication (63.4%), the service provider’s bedside manner (63%) , the ease of making an appointment (58.8%), the ease of reception of the patient reception / registration (52.3%), quality and accuracy of information (40.1%), availability of services telehealth (21.7%) and waiting room amenities (21.8%).
The report explains that “quality of customer service” means “the attitude, care and helpfulness of staff and practitioners.” “Communication” refers to things such as follow-up appointment reminders and annual check-up reminders.
According to Jeffrey, these factors were considered more important than how well a doctor was at the bedside due to the team-care approach in most doctor’s offices. “We are seeing a lot more people derive their notion of the quality of continuity of care. And if they feel that the doctor they love is supported by a less than competent team, it can have a significant impact on their sense of care. the quality of care, ”he said. .
Online appointment booking is a must
To appeal to the online consumer, Press Ganey points out, practices must ensure that supplier lists are accurate and complete. Additionally, the report says, offering online appointment scheduling can avoid the main challenge of making a new appointment, which is getting to the office.
Jeffrey agrees, although he notes that practices need to be careful about how they allow patients to select appointment times online. He suggests that an appointment request form on a patient portal first asks what the purpose of the visit is and offers about five options. If the request falls within a routine visit category, the provider’s calendar is displayed and the patient can select a convenient time slot. If it is anything else, an appointment planner will call the patient back.
“There needs to be better access to standard online appointments,” he says. “While privacy is an issue, you can use the patient portal that most EHRs have to provide online reservation. If you want to be successful in the future, that will be a major advantage. “
Of course, to do all of this, including reading supplier reviews, a consumer needs a good internet connection and a mobile or desktop device. Although broadband Internet access is still not available in some communities, the breakdown of survey respondents by demographic data shows that people with low incomes have been included.
Jeffrey doesn’t think the lack of access to the Internet or digital devices prevents many Americans from going online today. “Even in poor communities, most people have internet access through their smartphones. Even baby boomers are familiar with smartphones. I haven’t seen internet access being a big barrier for low-income households. income because they all have access to the phone. “
Ken Terry is a health journalist and author. His latest book is “Physician-Led Healthcare Reform: A New Approach to Medicare for All”.
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