Today, consumers are increasingly looking to online platforms to research and evaluate their purchases of products and services. But until recently, consumers were slower to adopt their online behaviors to the healthcare space. That has changed. Recent years have shown explosive growth in the use of digital tools for research into the choice of physician and healthcare needs.

Patients Are Depending On Online, Reviews, Ratings, Reputation More Than Ever

As a result, majority of patients are depending on online reviews, ratings, and reputation more than ever when choosing a physician according to the latest findings of Binary Fountain’s 2019 “Healthcare Consumer Insight & Digital Engagement” survey. Binary Fountain is an online reputation and customer experience management platform for enterprises, healthcare organizations and small and medium-sized businesses. The findings reveal critical trends into how patients look to online reviews, ratings and brand reputation when it comes to choosing a provider and, most interestingly, how they are sharing their experiences on social media.

Here are 27 healthcare consumers insights & digital engagement trends reflecting how consumers and patient preferences have changed over the past three years:

1. 75% of respondents are influenced by online rating and review sites when selecting a provider.

2. In fact, 60% of consumers check the ratings and reviews of a provider, even when referred by another provider, up 44% since 2018.

3. 80% of respondents believe online provider ratings and reviews are “somewhat” to “very” reliable.

4. Only 9% of respondents in 2019 selected they “do not use any websites or online platforms” when selecting a provider. By comparison, 48% of respondents selected this answer in 2017, representing an 80% increase in Americans using some form of online website or platform to choose a provider.

5. Of the respondents that have utilized ratings and review sites when searching for a provider, 53% selected Google as a primary source, followed by a hospital and/or facility’s website (48%), Facebook (45%), Healthgrades (42%) and Instagram (28%).

More Consumers Are Using Social Media for Provider Searches

6. 51% of consumers use social media platforms to search for a
provider, a 621% increase from Binary Fountain’s 2017 survey results.

7. In particular, Facebook saw a 264% increase from 2018 to 2019 in its use to help patients find a provider.

8. Other social media platforms such as Instagram and SnapChat have seen a 550% and 365% increase, from 2018 to 2019, respectively.

9. Likewise, specialized listing sites like U.S. News & World Report (536%), ShareCare (454%) and ZocDoc (359%) continue to gain more traction year-over-year.

More Patients Are Sharing Their Healthcare Experiences through Social Media

10. When asked “what online platform(s) have you ever used to share
your provider/hospital experiences,” respondents selected Facebook (57%) as the leading platform, followed by Google (49%) and a tie between hospital and/or facility website and Healthgrades at 40%.

11. All social media platforms, besides Facebook, have more than tripled the amount of provider/hospital online feedback they had received in 2017.

12. In fact, Google has seen a 319% increase in sharing provider/hospital experiences on its platform since 2017.

13, Similarly, Instagram has seen a 506% increase in sharing provider/hospital experiences since 2017.

14, Finally, Facebook has seen a 170% increase in sharing provider/hospital experiences on its platform since 2017.

15, Only 5% of respondents mentioned they “don’t share feedback on online platforms” in 2019, a stark contrast to the 69% of respondents that selected that answer in 2017.

Healthcare Consumers Seek Digital Scheduling

16. A majority (60%) of Americans say they have used an online search engine to look for a provider, a 60% increase from the 2017 survey results.

17. In fact, 29% of respondents have booked appointments directly from a provider’s website, a 100% increase from 2018.

18. Making appointments by phone has decreased by 45% since 2018. However, 47% of consumers still make appointments by phone, making it the leading method for booking healthcare appointments today.

19. Use of voice search capabilities to find physicians has made a significant leap with 30% of respondents selecting voice assistant devices (i.e., Siri, Alexa, Google Home, etc.) as a source, an increase of 756% since 2018.

Ease of Scheduling and Wait Times Are Critical to Winning Business

20. Across the board, patients indicated that “waiting to see the provider” and “scheduling” are the most frustrating factors when visiting a healthcare facility. The survey finds:

21. 27% of healthcare consumers list “wait times to see a provider” as their biggest pain point.

22. Whereas, 20% of respondents list “scheduling an appointment” as the biggest pain point, up 129% from last year.

23. Additionally, “the physical exam” and “awaiting exam results” have become increased pain points for patients since 2017, up 146% and 137% respectively.

Customer Experience is a Vital Concern for Patients

Patients continue to have high expectations for customer service and bedside manner. The report examined, through multiple-answer questions, what factors matter most to patients when rating or evaluating a provider. The survey results revealed:

24. Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CAHPS) Survey results (22%) are becoming increasingly important to patients when choosing a provider, a 700% increase from 2017. CAHPS scores are vital measures for providing healthcare organizations with a view into the patient’s perceptions on the care they were provided, as well as, a determining factor for government reimbursement.

“Thoroughness of the examination,” “friendly and caring attitude” and “ability to answer all your questions” remained the top three answers for all three years.

25. In 2017 and 2018, “friendly and caring attitude” was the top-ranked factor; however, in 2019 “thoroughness of examination” (41%) was the top factor, followed by “friendly and caring attitude” (38%) and “ability to answer all your questions” (26%).

26. In 2019, ages 25-54 agreed “thoroughness of the examination” mattered the most when evaluating a provider; while ages (8-24 selected “friendly and caring attitude” as their top choice and ages 55+ selected “friendly and caring attitude” and “ability to answer all your questions” as their top choice.

27. Surprisingly, “location” and “insurance coverage” dropped in importance by 42% and 48% respectively since 2017. This drop illustrates patients’ willingness to go out-of-network and/or travel further to visit a provider or facility that boasts more positive ratings and reviews.

Survey Methodology

Sponsored by Binary Fountain, the 2019 “Healthcare Consumer Insight & Digital Engagement” survey was conducted by One Poll, a marketing research company specializing in online quantitative research and polling, between July 25-26, 2019. Feedback was obtained from 1,000 U.S. adults who go to the doctor.

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