More patients are using online provider reviews for patient access decisions, looking for providers who are empathetic and drive positive experiences.
Seventy-five percent of patients consult an online provider review website before booking an appointment, highlighting the increasing influence these websites have on patient access to care, according to a new survey conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Binary Fountain.
In total, 60 percent of patients research their providers on a search engine before scheduling an appointment, up from 38 percent of patients who did so in 2017. Fifty-one percent of patients are looking up their providers on social media and 31 percent via voice search, like a Siri or Alexa home device. These numbers are up from 7 and 4 percent, respectively, back in 2017.
These findings highlight just how important having a good online reputation is for providers and healthcare organizations. Patients are increasingly in charge of their own health, with more and more shopping around for care and learning more about services before booking an appointment.
And with 45 percent more patients saying online provider reviews are “very reliable” than in 2018, it will be important for providers to understand how patients value, access, and use these reviews.
Patients are primarily leaning on Google to churn up reliable provider reviews, with 54 percent of patients saying they use the search engine to learn more about their clinicians. Forty-eight percent consult the hospital or facility website, 45 percent search Facebook, and 42 percent look at Healthgrades.
Fewer patients are looking at Instagram (29 percent), RateMDs (23 percent), Twitter (21 percent), and US News & World Report (21 percent) to know more about their provider services.
But online reviews are not the only factors patients are looking at when deciding which facilities they will visit. The survey asked patients about the influence of their family and friends’ provider reviews, with 54 percent saying a positive or negative experience for a family member could dissuade them from visiting a certain doctor themselves.
Thirty-six percent of patients said the facility location and hospital affiliation are important when picking a clinician, although those numbers are waning, the survey found. Thirteen percent fewer patients said hospital affiliation was important compared to last year’s data, and 48 and 62 percent fewer ranked location and insurance acceptance as important compared to last year.
Instead, patients are increasingly focused on patient experience data. Over 250 percent more patients ranked CAHPS (Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Processes and System) survey data as important for healthcare decision-making this year as they did last year, the survey found.
The survey likewise looked at patient’s habits posting their own online provider reviews, with the number of patients leaving online comments increasing by 306 percent since 2017. Patients are turning to Facebook (57 percent), Google (49 percent), Healthgrades (40 percent), hospital/facility website (40 percent), and Instagram (30 percent) to leave their own reviews of their providers.
And increasingly, patients are commenting their experiences and level of satisfaction in these reviews, with 41 percent saying that the thoroughness of a provider’s examination is the most important factor when leaving comments.
Thirty-nine percent said they comment on a clinician’s friendly or caring attitude, 36 percent about a provider’s ability to answer questions, and 33 percent about their own level of involvement in shared decision-making.
These findings align with a growing trend toward consumer and patient satisfaction, the survey authors pointed out. While patient safety and quality care outcomes will always be top-of-mind, the rise of consumerism in healthcare has led more providers to consider the customer service aspects that can impact a patient’s experience and eventually their online review.
And with more than 20 percent of patients saying ease of appointment scheduling and in-office wait times were the leading sticking points in their healthcare experiences, organizations are looking for tools to solve those issues. Digitization, the survey found, will serve organizations well as patients continue to demand online options for healthcare access.
The number of patients booking appointments over the telephone was cut in half of the past year, going down from 84 percent of appointments to 47 percent this year. Meanwhile, the number of patients booking through a provider website has nearly doubled, going from 14 percent of appointments booked to 29 percent, the survey found.
While these numbers certainly suggest that organizations should consider online appointment scheduling systems, leaders should be wary of doing away with the phone altogether. After all, nearly half of all patients booked their appointments over the phone this year, meaning there is still a significant market for organization call centers.
Nonetheless, these findings suggest a path forward for patient access and acquisition that is marked by positive and seamless experiences. As patients are increasingly concerned with having a satisfactory healthcare visit, and learning the details of their peers’ experiences, organizations need to understand online provider reviews.
By learning more about how patients use online reviews and the factors that influence them writing their own reviews, organizations can pinpoint areas for improvement.
Date: September 06, 2019
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