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How Do Provider Profiles Influence Patient Care Access Decisions?

A survey revealed that how a provider profile is presented makes a difference in patient care access decisions.

patient care access decisions

Source: Thinkstock

By Sara Heath

- Do patients make care access decisions based on provider credentials, or on appointment availability? The answer may depend on what kind of provider profile and reviews patients consult, according to one new survey.

The review of 1,100 patients conducted by Grand Rounds compared traditional online provider profiles to ones the company described as “more novel, contextualized profiles.”

Patients in a control group viewed provider profiles that displayed conventional information such as provider clinical expertise and patient satisfaction scores. Patients viewed one profile as positive while the other negative, and had to choose between the two clinicians for a headache consult.

The intervention group viewed provider profiles that contained qualitative information about patient experience and relevant clinical decisions.

For example, conventional profiles listed providers’ years of experience, percentage of patients seen for headaches, statistics on opioid prescribing, and patient experience scores.

The intervention group provider profiles synthesized that information, providing context such as “Dr. Williams sees headache patients regularly. However, she frequently prescribes medications that can actually make symptoms worse.”

The survey showed that when patients accessed the intervention profiles – the ones with synthesized and contextualized information – patients were more likely to select the doctor with more clinical acumen, rather than the provider with more ample availability. Ninety-one percent of intervention group respondents selected the higher-quality doctor than the doctor with quicker appointment accessibility.

In contrast, patients in the control group were evenly split after viewing the traditional provider profiles. Fifty-one percent of patients selected the higher-quality doctor, while 49 percent selected the doctor with easier appointment access.

Patients from both the control and intervention group understood which doctor was the better-quality option, regardless of the profile the patients viewed.

The motivating factor for patient treatment decisions depended almost entirely on the provider profile respondents viewed, the researchers found. Patients who viewed the traditional profiles reported that they valued convenience over clinical quality.

In contrast, patients who viewed contextualized profiles reported that they valued clinical quality over convenience.

Prior to accessing the provider profiles, patients stated the most important factor when selecting a provider. Those typical priorities were moot for patients viewing contextualized provider profiles.

Regardless of whether the patient usually prioritizes convenience or clinical quality, nearly all who accessed the contextualized profiles selected the higher-quality doctor. There was more variation in priorities among patients viewing the traditional provider profiles.

These findings suggest that healthcare experts should not make assumptions about what patients value most in healthcare, the researchers stated.

“As the quality reporting landscape changes, we should be wary of drawing strong conclusions about what patients do and do not care about without explicit testing,” the researchers wrote in a blog post. “Past disregard for quality information should be taken only as disregard for that specific information, not of physician quality, in general.”

Additionally, survey results showed that other typical measures of quality – including patient satisfaction scores and online provider reviews – are not as important to patients as previously thought.

“This survey shows that if presented with contextualized information about a physician, people will choose a more qualified physician over one that is more convenient, in a significant way,” said Grand Rounds Senior Director of Data Strategy Nate Freese.

“Further, based on our findings, traditional metrics like patient ratings, prescribing rates, and volume of patients seen were not nearly as compelling to respondents as more qualitative, contextualized statements about a doctor’s clinical expertise,” Freese added.

These findings can help inform further efforts to help patients make decisions about where to access care. As patients continue to assume more financial responsibility, they become more in charge of their healthcare decisions. Industry experts contend that it is essential patients have ample relevant information to make those treatment decisions.

“Understanding how people choose their doctors is critical to our mission of matching people with high-quality providers for their needs,” Freese concluded. “If consumers are willing to sacrifice convenience for the sake of quality, there is an opportunity to help them understand when it may be worth traveling further or waiting longer to get the best possible care.”

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