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Online reviews most important factor in choosing a doctor: Survey


 

Factors in patient loyalty

The Press Ganey survey asked which of several factors, besides excellent care, patients weighed when giving a five-star review to a health care provider.

Quality of customer service was rated first by 70.8% of respondents, followed by cleanliness of facilities (67.5%), communication (63.4%), the provider’s bedside manner (63%), ease of appointment booking (58.8%), ease of patient intake/registration (52.3%), quality and accuracy of information (40.1%), availability of telehealth services (21.7%), and waiting room amenities (21.8%).

The report explained that “quality of customer service” means “demeanor, attentiveness, and helpfulness of staff and practitioners.” “Communication” refers to things like follow-up appointment reminders and annual checkup reminders.

According to Mr. Jeffrey, these factors were considered more important than a doctor’s bedside manner because of the team care approach in most physician offices. “We see a lot more folks derive their notion of quality from continuity of care. And if they feel the physician they love is being supported by a less than competent team, that can impact significantly their sense of the quality of care,” he said.

Online appointment booking is a must

To win over the online consumer, Press Ganey emphasized, practices should ensure that provider listings are accurate and complete. In addition, offering online appointment booking can avoid the top challenge in making a new appointment, which is getting through to the office.

Mr. Jeffrey concurred, although he notes that practices have to be careful about how they enable patients to select appointment slots online. He suggests that an appointment request form on a patient portal first ask what the purpose of the visit is and that it offer five or so options. If the request fits into a routine visit category, the provider’s calendar pops up and the patient can select a convenient time slot. If it’s something else, an appointment scheduler calls the patient back.

“There needs to be greater access to standard appointments online,” he said. “While privacy is an issue, you can use the patient portal that most EHRs have to provide online booking. If you want to succeed going forward, that’s going to be a major plus.”

Of course, to do any of this, including reading provider reviews, a consumer needs a good internet connection and a mobile or desktop device. While broadband internet access is still not available in some communities, the breakdown of the survey respondents by demographics shows that low-income people were included.

Mr. Jeffrey doesn’t believe that a lack of internet access 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 be a big barrier for low-income households, because they all have access to phones.”

A version of this article first appeared on Medscape.com.

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