Healthcare is quickly gaining pace with other industries where online searching and vetting is the first step to making a purchasing decision. Consumers are increasingly turning to the internet to research and gather information about physicians. According to a recent study, 76.3% of individuals reported going online to find an individual doctor.1
Given consumers’ increasing penchant for user-review websites, it is becoming more and more important for physicians to actively manage their online profiles and take advantage of support that healthcare marketing teams provide. Consumers rely heavily on the internet when seeking information about health issues and healthcare professionals, and are using physician review websites more than ever before to decide where to seek care. More than half of all patients choose care based on information found outside of the doctor’s website.1 Healthgrades, in particular, is home to the largest consumer audience seeking physician care. Understanding the importance of physician profiles will allow healthcare leaders to better inform their physician workforce, in order to maximize opportunity and better engage with consumers.
Recent research from Healthgrades, and data from other patient experience surveys provides insight into which aspects of physicians’ online profiles are the most meaningful drivers of consumer engagement. Here are some major takeaways that highlight the journey consumers take when researching and selecting a practitioner.
Consumers consider online reviews a credible resource
95% of consumers regard online ratings and reviews as “somewhat” to “very” reliable. Similarly, 75% of Americans say online ratings and review sites have influenced their decision when choosing a physician.2
Consumers are more likely to choose a female physician over a male physician
60% of consumers prefer a female physician over a male physician. This preference is especially true of women (71%), Millennials (64%), minorities (64%), and infrequent patients (63%). Conversely, seniors (52%) and men (54%) prefer a male over a female physician.
The number of ratings is more important than the star rating itself
Consumers are more likely to select a physician who has a larger number of ratings than a physician with a perfect star rating.1 64% of consumers prefer a physician with 4 out of 5 stars and 25 patient responses over one with 5/5 stars and 3 responses. This “quantity over quality” assessment suggests that the recency of reviews also matters, and physicians might be inclined to proactively seek reviews as part of a continuous best practice.
But…there is nearly a 40-point swing in preference when a social media component is introduced to the physician’s profile
Consumers opt for a physician with Facebook “likes” and Twitter followers, but with fewer ratings (55%), over a physician with more ratings but no social media component (45%). Consumers under 55 show the strongest shift toward profiles with social media indicators, as do consumers in urban and suburban areas and parents.
Consumers use social media as both a resource and an outlet to contribute
30% of consumers share their personal healthcare experiences via social media, and online ratings and review sites.2
Star ratings > education
62% of respondents select a physician with 5/5 stars who graduated from a more generic university (in this case, the University of Arizona) over a physician with 4/5 stars who graduated from a more elite university (in this case, Harvard). While all groups of consumers preferred the more highly rated physician, consumers over 55 (43%) and those in rural areas (47%) are more closely divided between star ratings and education.
Experience > star ratings
61% of consumers prefer a physician with 4/5 stars and 20 years of experience over a physician with 5/5 stars and four years of experience. Millennials (65%) and healthy consumers (64%) prefer experienced physicians, while seniors (43%) and frequent patients (47%) are more closely divided between experience and star ratings.
Consumers opt slightly for a physician with a picture in the profile over one with a higher star rating but no picture
52% of consumers will select a physician with a picture and a 4/5 star rating over a physician with no picture and a 5/5 star rating. Parents (59%) and Millennials (58%) are among the groups most likely to opt for the lower-rated physician with a picture. This suggests that consumers are influenced by the ability to establish some sort of personal connection. This can also be enhanced by offering a biography or other personalized content.
Shorter wait times matter more than higher star ratings for minor health issues, but star ratings have more importance when dealing with a serious health issue
When seeking care for a minor health issue, 67% of consumers opt for a physician with a 25-minute average wait and 4/5 stars over one with a 90-minute average wait and 5/5 stars. However, 53% of consumers opt for the same 4/5 star physician with a 25-minute wait time when seeking care for a serious health issue. The groups with the biggest swing from the lower-rated physician with a 25-minute wait for a non-critical health issue toward a higher-rated physician with a 90-minute wait include:
- High earners (51-point swing)
- Seniors (44-point swing)
- Consumers with a low deductible (38-point swing)
Similarly, a shorter “get-in time” matters more than higher star ratings for minor health issues, but star ratings matter more when dealing with a serious health issue
67% of consumers opt for a physician with a one-day appointment wait and 4/5 stars over one with a seven-day wait time and 5/5 stars when seeking care for a minor health issue. However, 53% of consumers opt for the same 4/5 star physician with a one-day appointment wait when seeking care for a serious health issue.
Consumers have a higher level of expectation from healthcare professionals than from other businesses
The average lowest-acceptable rating for consumers to choose a doctor is 3.2 stars, compared with a lowest-acceptable rating of 2.7 for consumers to choose a business on a user-review website.
However, expectation differences still exist between different age and income groups
Those with higher lowest-acceptable ratings for physicians include Millennials (4.1), high earners (4.1), consumers who have used the internet to search for information about physicians (4.0), and those who utilize user-review sites (4.2)
- Yext, “Patient Journey Survey 2016.” Aug 17 2016
- “Healthcare Consumer Insight & Digital Engagement” survey 2017. Binary Fountain/OnePoll. Web. 23 Jan. 2018.