Insights from the Healthgrades Healthcare Marketers Survey

Our recent Healthgrades survey shows what patients really want from practices in their search for care — here are some key findings.

Earning a patient’s trust means understanding what they need and expect from healthcare professionals. However, a recent Healthgrades study found that current marketing strategies aren’t exactly aligned with patient preferences.1 This disconnect means lost revenue, missed engagement opportunities, and reduced brand awareness for marketers. For patients, this makes it harder to find the right care.

How can your health system better attract and retain high-value patients in today’s competitive healthcare space? Here are some key insights to consider as you optimize your marketing strategy.

Comparing Patient and Healthcare Marketer Perspectives

Does your marketing strategy align with patient needs? Many healthcare marketers would say yes, but our research found that many respondents are focusing on the wrong areas and not meeting their marketing goals. According to the Healthgrades’ 2022 Healthcare Marketers Study, there’s an alarming disconnect between what patients prioritize during their healthcare journey and what marketers think patients prioritize.

When searching for a healthcare professional, the most common criteria patients prioritize are:1

  1. Whether a doctor is covered by their insurance
  2. Whether a doctor is accepting new patients
  3. The geographic proximity of the doctor’s office or hospital

In contrast, healthcare marketers believe patients choose doctors based on:1

  1. Years of experience
  2. Online ratings and reviews
  3. Doctor’s experience with a specific condition or procedure

Not only is there no overlap between what patients prioritize and what marketers think they do, but the chart below also shows disconnects between almost half of the healthcare search criteria studied.


Convenience and affordability are common obstacles to care, so it makes sense that patients would want to check those boxes first. According to a McKinsey study, 90% of patients choose affordable, average-rated practices that are in-network instead of more expensive, higher-rated health systems when given enough information to vet their options. While online reviews don’t fall into the top three priorities, patients still rely on them in their decision-making process. The problem is that over 60% of patients aren’t receiving enough information from in-network practices, complicating their search for care.

By providing patients with the information they need to make informed healthcare decisions, health systems can better understand what patients look for in a doctor that goes beyond just quality. That’s why claiming physician profiles on Healthgrades is essential — it gives your healthcare professionals a chance to be transparent with patients, respond to online reviews, address questions directly, and update vital information to help patients appoint with confidence.

Key Areas of Investment for Healthcare Marketers

Where you direct your healthcare marketing budget can determine how well your brand stands out and how much return you can expect to receive on your investments. Over 70% of our survey respondents invested in the following:1

DEI initiatives are rising to the top of many healthcare marketers’ priority lists. A recent Healthgrades study found that although most respondents across ethnicities and races trust their doctor, Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) are 150% more likely than White respondents to disagree. Bias in healthcare, both implicit and explicit, has serious implications for BIPOC patients. When making decisions about their health, patients want healthcare professionals who can understand how social determinants of health affect their daily lives and factor them into treatment plans.

Other notable investment areas highlighted in our study include brand awareness, telehealth, digital front doors, population health, and upselling/cross-selling current patients.

Top Service Lines by Marketing Spend

Healthcare marketers are also heavily investing in certain medical specialties, with cardiology (51% of respondents), oncology (44% of respondents), and primary care (40% of respondents) leading marketing expenditures across service lines.1 Although promoting cardiology and oncology service lines will reach patients with chronic or specialized conditions, it’s also wise to dedicate time and resources to marketing your hospital’s primary care department. A third of all Healthgrades searches are for primary care physicians, and marketing in this area can serve as a gateway, enticing patients to turn to your health system for more specialized service lines in the future.2

When advertising health systems and priority service lines, ensure that your strategy emphasizes quality of care to help patients feel confident that they’re making the right healthcare decision. After all, their choice of hospital can mean the difference between life and death. According to a 2020 Healthgrades study, patients treated at hospitals ranked as one of America’s 250 Best Hospitals faced a 28% lower risk of dying from life-threatening conditions, with the risk of mortality increasing for hospitals that didn’t make the list.3

Celebrate your staff’s achievements, leverage patient testimonials, and don’t be afraid to display the awards your health system has earned to show patients that your practice constantly strives for excellence.

Healthgrades Advertising Solutions: Where Marketing Goals Meet Patient Expectations

Closing the gap between your health system’s information and what consumers expect starts with Healthgrades, America’s #1 site for connecting patients with doctors. We provide solutions supporting top investment areas for health systems marketers—brand awareness, patient acquisition and retention, and DEI—while keeping your marketing strategy in tune with what patients want.

Our advertising solutions prominently place your brand on featured, top-of-page physician listings with logo integration to increase brand recognition. We also introduce your medical staff as alternatives directly on competitor profiles that offer similar services to intercept patients as they prepare to complete their healthcare search. Reaching patients at the bottom of the funnel, when they’re ready to convert, is critical! In addition to helping you reach consumers actively searching for care, Healthgrades extends your campaign to those searching on partner sites like MedicalNewsToday and Sharecare.

Healthgrades is committed to helping consumers find the right doctor, including making their healthcare journey as inclusive as possible. Visitors to our site can find content that recognizes and contextualizes current disparities in condition treatment, diverse casting and closed captioning for all video content, and first-person testimonials of healthcare experiences from BIPOC communities in our PatientConnect Hubs. From primary care to your most in-demand service lines, Healthgrades puts your health system in front of the largest online audience of healthcare consumers and helps them appoint with confidence.

Half of all Americans who see a doctor annually visit—will they choose your health system? Contact us today to learn how you can extend your audience reach and convert more high-value patients by becoming a Healthgrades partner.

1 Healthgrades Borderless Access Panel Survey, April 8-May 19, 2022, n=111
2 Healthgrades site study, 2022
3 Statistics are based on Healthgrades analysis of MedPAR data for years 2018 through 2020 and represent 3-year estimates for Medicare patients only