Going Digital: 3 Factors Patients Consider Before Selecting a Physician

Dennis HungBy Dennis Hung, Medical Consultant

No matter how good of a doctor you are, you’re not going to be able to make a difference in any patient’s life unless you can convince them to walk through your door. With all the information available online these days, patients have the option to be much more selective about their physicians. So how are you, as a qualified medical practitioner, supposed to stand out? What is it that catches the patient’s eye?

Patients have several sources and factors they are able to consider as they make a decision on which practice to visit. Depending on the type of doctor they are seeking, their main sources of information may differ. Friends and relatives are a popular source, as are referrals from other doctors. Meanwhile, a significant percentage turn to the Internet to find the best health care provider. Beyond recommendations, factors such as convenience had a significant impact on the patient’s final decision.

1.  Recommendations from friends, family, and medical professionals
When it comes to people’s health, they are most likely to look for advice from someone they trust, and who is more trustworthy than friends and family? If a friend or family member has personal experience with a health care provider and offers a positive review, it adds a significant amount of credibility.

In one survey conducted by HSC Research, just over 50 percent of patients who were searching for a new primary care physician asked their friends and family for recommendations. In fact, for more than half of those people (26.9 percent of the total), friends and relatives were the only source they used. Referrals from other doctors or health care providers were close behind at 38.1 percent. A primary care physician’s impact almost doubles when patients search for a specialist, with two thirds asking their PCP for recommendations, and more than half (58.2 percent) stopping their search there.

2.  Provider’s reputation, including online reviews and search results
If a patient has no friends or family who can offer a solid recommendation, they generally seek out a doctor with a solid reputation. Sometimes, the choice is moot, because only certain doctors are within an insurance provider’s network, but in several circumstances, those networks contain more than one doctor in any given area of medicine. To narrow down the choices, they will often turn to the Internet.

A simple search of doctors in a particular geographic area brings up several options, as well as sites offering reviews on doctors and medical clinics. Both the medical provider’s average rating on these reviews and closer to the top of the search results that provider’s name is, the more likely patients are to schedule an appointment.

These search results could actually be changing, soon. Currently, a Google search for medical providers in a geographical area includes a list of three providers that are set apart at the top of the list. Google has recently announced that it plans to add paid advertisements to this list, dropping the list of actual recommendations down to two. In order to set themselves apart and be noticed, medical practitioners will have to work extra hard and follow these steps provided in a recent PatientPop article to ensure that they are seen:

  • Clean up your local listing and avoid keyword stuffing
  • Ensure your site is mobile-friendly
  • Keep your local profiles up to date
  • Optimize your Google My Business page

3.  Convenience
When it comes down to it, one of the most important factors patients consider when choosing which clinic to visit is convenience. According to Business Wire, More than two thirds (67.2 percent) consider convenience when they are deciding which primary care physician to visit. This has more than twice the influence of cost (28.5 percent).

The easier a clinic is to visit, and the easier it is to be seen by the doctor, the more likely a patient is to choose that clinic. Particularly when they’re not feeling well, patients want the process to just go smoothly. By removing obstacles that make doctor visits difficult—such as long wait times, remote locations, and difficult check-in procedures—the more likely patients are to come in, and the more likely they are to return. Not only that, they will recommend the office to their family and friends, which will bring in even more patients.