Online reviews most important factor in choosing a doctor: Survey


Online reviews and star ratings are the most important factor in choosing a new health care 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 to consumers in selecting a physician than another doctor’s referral and is more than twice as important when choosing a primary care physician.


In fact, 83% of respondents said they went online to read reviews of a physician after receiving a referral from another provider.

The online research trend reflects not only the increased familiarity of all generations with the internet but also the growing consumerization of health care, Thomas Jeffrey, president of the Sullivan/Luallin Group, a patient experience consulting firm, told this news organization.

“According to patient satisfaction surveys, people are becoming health care consumers more than in the past,” he noted. “Historically, we didn’t look at health care as a consumer product. But, with high deductibles and copays, doctor visits can represent a pretty significant out-of-pocket expense. As it begins to hit folks’ pocketbooks, they become more savvy shoppers.”

Digital preferences for providers were gaining “positive momentum” even before the COVID-19 pandemic, but the crisis “drove upticks in some consumer digital behaviors,” the Press Ganey report pointed out.

Mr. Jeffrey agreed, noting that this finding matches what Sullivan/Luallin has discovered in its research. “I think the pandemic pushed people to engage more online,” he said. “The highest net promoter score [likelihood to recommend in market surveys] for a pharmacy is the Amazon pharmacy, which is an online-based delivery service. Then you have telehealth visits, which are more convenient in many ways.”

How patients search online

In choosing a new primary care doctor, 51.1% go on the web first, 23.8% seek a referral from another health care provider, and 4.4% get information from an insurer or a benefits manager, according to the survey.

The factors that matter most to consumers when they pick any provider, in order, are online ratings and reviews of the physician, referral from a current doctor, ratings and reviews of the facility, and the quality and completeness of a doctor’s profile on a website or online directory. The doctor’s online presence and the quality of their website are also important.

According to Press Ganey, search engines like Google are the most used digital resources, with 65.4% of consumers employing them to find a doctor. However, consumers now use an average of 2.7 sites in their search. The leading destinations are a hospital or a clinic site, WebMD, Healthgrades, and Facebook. (This news organization is owned by WebMD.)

Compared with 2019, the report said, there has been a 22.8% decline in the use of search engines for seeking a doctor and a 53.7% increase in the use of health care review sites such as Healthgrades and Vitals.

When reading provider reviews, consumers look for more recent reviews and want the reviews to be “authentic and informative.” They also value the star ratings. About 84%of respondents said they wouldn’t book an appointment with a referred provider that had a rating of less than four stars.

Overall, the top reasons why people are deterred from making an appointment are difficulty contacting the office, the poor quality of online reviews, and an average online rating of less than four stars.

The vast majority of respondents (77%) said they believe internet reviews reflect their own experience with a provider organization, and only 2.6% said the reviews were inaccurate. Another finding of the survey indicates that this attention of patients to reviews of their own provider doesn’t represent idle curiosity: About 57% of Baby Boomers and 45% of millennials/Gen Z’ers said they’d written online reviews of a doctor or a hospital.


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