Survey: Patients prefer online provider searches to referrals, especially if they’re young

By Dave Muoio
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Although most appointment scheduling is still conducted over the phone, the majority of consumers will consult online sources as their primary resource when seeking and choosing a new healthcare provider, according to a recent survey report from Kyruus. This is especially true among younger generations, who are also more likely to book appointments online, place their trust in online reviews, and highly value providers with self-service appointment management.

“As millennials and Gen Xers become bigger healthcare consumers, the rising demand for digital health capabilities will make health systems more vulnerable to patients switching to competitors,” the report’s authors wrote. “Health systems can look to online offerings in other industries, such as ratings and reviews, to support healthcare consumers’ decision-making processes. First and foremost, health systems must offer insightful information during the provider search and selection phases.”

For the report, Kyruus, which sells its own suite of patient access tools for providers, polled 1,000 patients aged 18 to 65 years on their appointment scheduling and provider search habits.

Fifty-three percent of those polled said they used the internet as their top source for information about a new healthcare provider, with insurance companies coming in second (34 percent), followed by friends or family members (32 percent) and other healthcare professionals (32 percent). Of those conducting their research online, 59 percent said that they conducted a general internet search to find information, while 42 percent and 38 percent, respectively, said they consulted an insurance or health system’s own website.

Although 62 percent of consumers said that they prefer booking appointments over the phone — primarily, they said, due to its ease and the appeal of personalized correspondence — 16 percent prefer booking online through the provider’s website and 9 percent prefer going through a mobile app or provider search website. Continued analysis of these responses by age showed that the move away from phone calls is primarily driven by younger consumers. While only 16 percent of respondents classified as baby boomers choose to book online, it’s the preferred method of 24 percent of Gen Xers and 40 percent of millennials. In addition, nearly two-thirds of both Gen Xers and millennials said that they would be willing to switch providers for the ability to book online.

These findings — along with others indicating the importance of insurance applicability to patients — highlight growing trends of consumerism impacting the healthcare industry and how digital resources are impacting patients’ behaviors, the report’s authors wrote.

“Today’s healthcare consumers have come to expect the same informative and action-oriented online experiences in healthcare that they find in other industries,” Graham Gardner, CEO of Kyruus, said in a statement. “Capturing their attention requires health systems to take a close look at their ‘digital front doors’ — both how consumers find their websites and what they experience once there — and ensure that their online provider information is both robust and consistent with their offline points of access.”