Feb 07, 2024



Top Five Things Patients Prioritize When Choosing a Doctor

New research shows that patients prioritize reviews from other patients when searching for a new doctor. We’re sharing how you can leverage the power of consumer feedback to align your health system with what matters most to patients. 

Since the pandemic, there has been a shift in health priorities, with 63% of individuals becoming more concerned about health and wellness. Historically, patients had to choose their doctors based on minimal information, such as from word-of-mouth recommendations. But times have changed. Like most things nowadays, patients expect finding a new doctor to be easy, informative, and digital. They look for specific characteristics, such as:

  • What is the doctor’s educational background?

  • How do other patients rate their experience with this physician?

  • What languages do they speak?

  • What appointment availability do they have next week?

  • Can the appointment be scheduled online?

All of these questions—and more—factor into a patient’s decision on which doctor they’ll choose. As such, if you’re not keeping the right pulse on what patients want, how will you attract and retain them? In this article, we’ll explore what patients are really looking for when they’re searching for care and how you can meet these demands.

1. Patients Are Checking Reviews

Over 70% of patients read online reviews before booking an appointment with a new doctor, but did you know that physicians also use patient reviews to make referrals? Patient feedback offers valuable insights into a healthcare professional’s experience, bedside manner, and patient outcomes.

In a 2021 Healthgrades healthcare quality study of U.S. healthcare consumers1, 59% of respondents shared that insurance coverage was among their top criteria in choosing a medical specialist, followed by the location of the office and whether the specialist was accepting new patients.

New market research from a December 2023 healthgrades.com study explored what additional information would help consumers choose a doctor.

While patient reviews were identified as helpful across all specialties, the relative importance of other factors varied based on the type of specialist a consumer was seeking. When asked what information would help them choose a specialist:

What Are Patients Looking For?

Bedside Manner

32% of respondents looking for primary care and 37% looking for OB-GYN services identified this as one of their top needs, compared to only 12% who were searching for an orthopedic surgeon.

Years of Experience

25% of respondents said this was a top need, but those seeking dentists (35%) and dermatologists (32%) were more likely to prioritize it.

Previous Procedures

46% of respondents looking for an orthopedic surgeon were most likely to prioritize this compared to an average of 25%.

Regardless, patient reviews are taking priority in the healthcare landscape, and addressing this feedback is critical to patient-centric care. Leaving reviews unanswered can lead to patients feeling like their experiences aren’t valued. Encourage physicians in your health system to ask for feedback immediately after appointments and offer to resolve concerns in the office before patients leave. Leverage Healthgrades’ Patient Engagement Resources to make it easier for consumers to view and post reviews on a doctor’s Healthgrades profile. Healthcare teams should also follow up on the feedback they receive, both positive and negative, as it can go a long way in demonstrating your hospital’s commitment to patient satisfaction. But remember to abide by HIPAA standards when addressing comments—be mindful of patient confidentiality in your public response and encourage offline communication.

2. Diversity and Physician Compatibility Matter

Social determinants of health contribute to 60% of healthcare outcomes, and people of color deserve doctors and specialists who understand how race, ethnicity, gender, and culture are linked to health. Healthgrades studies have shown that patients value shared backgrounds when it comes to physician compatibility, and a lack of representation in healthcare can cause unconscious bias and communication gaps, leading to dangerous misdiagnoses or misunderstood treatment plans.

As such, adding language fluency to physician profiles is one step forward in helping patients find a care team that can communicate in their native tongue and ultimately provide optimal care. For instance, a study by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that six in 10 U.S. Hispanic adults had difficulty communicating with a healthcare professional due to language or cultural barriers. While half turned to a family member to translate, more than 25% needed an outside translator, public resources, or online sources for help. Conscious editorial language, culturally relevant topics, diverse ad casting, and translating your materials into other languages can also help ensure accessibility and resonance with diverse populations.

3. Patients Want Convenience and Ease of Access

Both convenience and affordability are common obstacles patients face when seeking care, but today’s digital tools can help alleviate these pain points:

Online appointment scheduling (OAS): OAS makes it easy for patients to book appointments and address their healthcare needs online. At the same time, it helps close the loop on your healthcare marketing strategy, encouraging patients to schedule an appointment with a doctor right when they’re top of mind. Plus, without the limitations of office hours and wait times, embedding an OAS into your health system’s operations is a great way to deliver patient-centered care.

Telehealth: While telehealth emerged as an alternate option to in-person care, it has now become the preferred method of receiving care for many healthcare consumers. Research has shown that 55% of patients are more satisfied with telehealth than in-person care, and 34% of respondents are more likely to book telehealth appointments since the pandemic, making it a solution worth incorporating into your marketing strategy.

Asynchronous care: Asynchronous care—in which the exchange is not live—redefines the doctor-patient dynamic by introducing flexibility and convenience. This method allows patients to interact with healthcare specialists at their convenience through digital platforms—a benefit that streamlines workflows and expands access to care. In fact, 8 out of 10 physicians already use asynchronous care—such as secure messaging or digital intake forms—for prescription refills, and remote monitoring or automatic collection of biometric data.

However, keep in mind that as consumers increase the usage of asynchronous channels, health systems need to decide how to bill for e-visits to be fairly compensated for not only their time but also for expanding patients’ access to care.

4. Informed Decision-Making With Access to Data

Healthcare is based on many big decisions, and providing patients with better access to health data can empower them to make the right ones. A McKinsey survey found that over 60% of patients said they don’t receive enough information from health systems to help them find high quality care. In the same study, these patients reported having a strong interest in their medical records and prefer healthcare professionals who offer greater patient data access. But in addition to their health data, they want access to information about healthcare professionals to feel confident in making decisions about their care.

Knowledge is power. In healthcare, it can also mean the difference between life and death. Every delayed appointment or skipped prescription refill means a worsening prognosis for conditions like cancer or multiple sclerosis, which aggressively progress without treatment. As such, it’s increasingly critical for health systems to adopt data transparency:

Physician Data

Comprehensive information like bedside manner, patient reputation, medical background, and frequency of treatment help paint a clearer picture for patients on the search for a healthcare professional Those requiring specialized procedures, in particular, need easy access to information about the frequency of specific treatments performed by certain doctors to identify the most qualified physicians. For instance, while a person needing a knee replacement may be able to find several highly-rated orthopedic surgeons in their area, one orthopedic surgeon may have more experience with knee replacements while another may be more experienced at hip replacements. Physician profiles on Healthgrades make it easy for patients to compare doctors based on experience with specific conditions and procedures.

However, qualifications are just one part of the equation. As mentioned earlier, patients also value honest feedback from other patients about their experiences with a healthcare professional.

Outcomes Data

Healthgrades’ consumer confidence study found that 57% of patients are more concerned with the quality of care they choose today than before the pandemic—over one-third of patients now spend more time researching hospital quality before deciding where to have a procedure than they did pre-pandemic. A recent Healthgrades survey revealed that 76% of site visitors would only choose a hospital with high quality ratings for their condition or procedure, and nearly two-thirds (63%) are more likely to choose a hospital that received a quality award when choosing between two hospitals for an upcoming procedure.

But to quickly identify high quality care options, consumers need to be given the tools. For example, to promote transparency in healthcare, hospitals can license third-party awards and recognize healthcare professionals who deliver outstanding care. This way, hospitals can build a reputation of openness, reliability, and trust among patients, converting new prospects and inspiring loyalty from existing patients.

5. Price Transparency to Combat Financial Barriers

Price transparency remains a significant concern for patients, primarily because of the increasing financial burden placed on them for treatments and doctor visits. As out-of-pocket costs continue to rise, so do concerns about the affordability of healthcare—more than one-fourth of consumers reported skipping some form of care last year due to costs. Such cost-related deferments can result in delayed diagnoses, contributing to higher acuity levels and hospital treatment costs. Patient acuity is projected to increase by another 10% over the next decade, reflecting an increase in case mix and longer hospital stays.

Taking a cue from price transparency laws in effect, health system marketers should embed service prices into campaigns. Without transparency into cost information, patients may assume that a certain procedure or service is out of their budget when it could be more affordable than they realize. Making price points visible allows patients to factor in insurance costs and gain accurate insights into possible out-of-pocket expenses.

Tap into a Larger, Qualified Patient Pool with Healthgrades

Healthgrades is the #1 site for connecting doctors and patients. We have data on every doctor in America, including robust profile data and quality outcomes. On healthgrades.com, physicians can highlight their care philosophy, upload a video, profile photo, and more to help build trust and connect with potential patients, humanize their profile, and put their best foot forward. When you partner with Healthgrades, your brand presence receives an immediate upgrade with:

  • Prominent promotions on featured, top-of-page doctor listings.
  • Rotating featured placement on specialty landing pages.
  • Seamless and organic logo integration to foster brand awareness for your health system.

In addition, our advertising solutions engage the largest audience searching for healthcare professionals online, offering increased visibility, an extensive syndication network, and competitive intercept, where your health system’s doctor profiles are surfaced as alternative options directly on your competitors’ physician profiles.

For doctors not accepting new patients, surface alternatives from your health system to keep patients from looking elsewhere. We also provide easy conversion options, such as integrating your site’s online appointment scheduling for in-person and telehealth services directly into your profiles to convert consumers ready to appoint.

Get in touch with us today to extend your health system’s impact and strengthen doctor-patient relationships for better health outcomes.

12021 Healthgrades Healthcare Quality Study, n=525

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