In this second annual nationwide survey, we asked patients about their healthcare preferences and activities across the patient experience. By sharing these findings, we aim to give physicians and dentists a sharper understanding of patients’ habits and priorities when choosing a healthcare provider.
At PatientPop, we encourage every provider to use this information to make even small improvements at your practice. By framing this knowledge within the specifics of your local market, you can forge a path toward practice growth.
(Note: The following insights were gathered before the outbreak of COVID-19 and widespread implementation of telehealth. PatientPop will publish an update that addresses patients’ views on these timely considerations.)
Using online resources to select a healthcare provider
1. Most people look online to learn about healthcare providers and care.
Matching the results of our 2019 survey, 3 of 4 patients use online resources to find out about a healthcare provider or medical care. Nearly 6 of 10 do so with some regularity.
2. Patient reviews continue to be the most influential online resource.
When choosing a doctor or dentist, 7 of 10 patients rely most often on other patients’ experiences by way of online reviews. This represents an 8.5 percent increase over patients’ use of online reviews one year ago.
Q: Which of these contribute to your decision when selecting a healthcare provider?
In addition, 72.9 percent of patients are more likely to consider a healthcare provider with an impressive online reputation. While that illustrates the direct value of positive reviews for providers, the most notable change is the significant reduction of those who don’t think a strong reputation is important.
In 2019, that equaled more than 1 in 10 patients (10.61 percent of respondents). In 2020, only 3.79 percent find a strong reputation “not so important” or “not at all important”.
Q: When you choose a doctor or dentist, how important are positive patient reviews and a strong average star rating?
3. Google is the top destination for online reviews.
As we always remind healthcare providers, your professional profile on Google should be a healthcare marketing priority. Google owns 88 percent of the search engine market in the U.S. — it’s where people go for information on healthcare and just about everything else.
Not only do patients turn to Google more than other sites, but they’re doing so in increasing numbers. Compared to our 2019 survey results, 27.9 percent more patients told us they seek reviews on Google.
Q: On which websites are you most likely to look for reviews of healthcare providers?
4. Most patients will ignore any practice with an average star rating less than 4 out of 5 stars.
An average star rating of 4 stars is the baseline acceptable standard across websites featuring ratings and reviews. (Additionally, in Google searches that include the word “best”, Google filters results to only display businesses with a minimum average star rating of 4.)
Nearly six in 10 patients will not consider a provider with anything less than an average 4-star rating.
Q: Which is the lowest average star rating you’ll consider when choosing a provider?
Patient preferences when seeing a doctor
5. Three of the top four requirements from patients relate to the in-person experience.
In this era of the patient as an active consumer, convenience is often a high priority for patients deciding on a healthcare provider. But in our 2020 survey of patients, the provider-patient connection is most important.
Nearly two-thirds of patients said one of their top priorities of the patient experience is having a doctor who is simply “a good listener.” Based on our previous research, healthcare providers are already on the same page, with 68.7 percent saying a top in-person patient experience is integral to their success.
If that connection comes up short, it could cost a practice. Of patients willing to switch doctors to satisfy their needs and preferences (nearly seven of 10), 43.6 percent would switch for that good listener. Thirty-seven percent would change providers for more flexibility and later hours.
Q: Besides quality care, what do you want most from a healthcare provider?
6. A short wait time is a demand across the patient journey.
Whether patients are booking that first appointment with a practice, or waiting to be seen the day of a visit, time is of the essence. As the above chart shows, a short wait is a valued benefit for patients. Conversely, long waits can be highly frustrating.
The majority of patients (72.4 percent) are not willing to wait more than two weeks to see a new doctor. One quarter will not wait longer than one week.
Q: How long are you willing to wait for an appointment with a new doctor?
By the 20-minute mark in a waiting area, six in 10 patients (59.1 percent) feel they’re having a negative experience.
Q: While waiting at the doctor or dentist’s office, at what point do you start to feel frustrated by the wait?
7. Patients prefer text messages for care reminders.
In the battle against no-shows and late cancellations, the appointment reminder has become healthcare practices’ central tool. When patients need to schedule an appointment, or simply remember to show up, their preferred communication is text message.
Q: What is your preferred type of communication?
Get a reminder for an upcoming appointment:
Get a reminder that you’re due for an appointment:
Patients providing feedback, posting reviews
8. More patients are posting reviews — and the majority are positive.
Thirty-six percent of patients say they’ve posted a review about a healthcare provider, a slight increase over 2019. As a potential sign of improving overall patient satisfaction, 65.8 percent of people posting reviews have shared only positive experiences, up 8.2 percent over the previous year.
9. Google continues to be the most popular site for patients to post reviews.
Google is far and away the choice for patients to submit reviews, with some notable increases in patient preference for a few websites over the last year.
Compared to 2019, more patients chose to submit reviews directly to their practices’ own website, with a slight increase (6.9 percent). Three popular websites experienced the greatest increase of patients posting reviews, according to our survey: Yelp, with a 17.7 percent increase; Google, up 16.1 percent; and WebMD, with a 14.7 percent increase.
Q: On which of these sites have you posted a review of a doctor, dentist, or other healthcare provider?
10. Most negative feedback from patients is about direct communication with their practice.
About one-third of patients (34.2 percent) have posted a negative review of their healthcare provider. The majority of their concerns centers on their connection — or lack thereof — with a practice.
Q: Which best describes the focus of your negative feedback?
11. The majority of practices don’t respond to negative feedback — and the results can be damaging.
Nearly six of 10 patients (58.5 percent) were not contacted by their healthcare provider after sharing feedback about a poor experience at their practice. Sadly, that’s an increase over our 2019 survey results (previously 51.8 percent).
Responding to patients is one of the most important aspects of managing patient communication, with a direct line to satisfying patients — when practices respond to feedback from unhappy patients, the rate of satisfaction improves.
By simply connecting with a dissatisfied patient, and listening to their concerns, providers can retain a previously unhappy patient.
Q: How satisfied were you with how the practice responded to your feedback?
When practices respond
When practices don’t respond, the rate of patient dissatisfaction goes up 276 percent.
Managing a private healthcare practice has become enormously challenging, but opportunities at business success and patient loyalty abound. With these insights into patients’ top needs and preferences, practice owners can make the adjustments necessary to stay connected with patients and drive practice growth.
Survey methodology: PatientPop surveyed 767 patients across the nation in February 2020, using the SurveyMonkey Audience program. Respondents were 54.1 percent female and 45.9 percent male, with a generally even distribution across four age segments, ages 18 and older.