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Patients Prioritize Costs, Convenience when Selecting Docs

As more patients can access health insurance, they're selecting doctors based on healthcare costs and facility convenience.

Patients are looking for doctors with low healthcare costs and convenient facilities.

Source: Thinkstock

By Sara Heath

- Healthcare costs and convenience are top of mind for patients when selecting their doctors, according to a report published by locum tenens provider Weatherby Healthcare.

In a survey of nearly 500 adult patients, a research team found that 77 percent of patients primarily look for a clinician, hospital, or practice that is within the patient’s health insurance network.

Seventy-five percent of patients look for providers that charge low out-of-pocket costs, and 70 percent prioritize a convenient location.

Patients also value clinicians who can deliver quality healthcare in the areas that the patients need. Sixty percent of patients said they choose doctors based onw the services offered within the facility, the hospital affiliation (54 percent), and the healthcare facility type (48 percent).

The survey revealed that there are also factors that patients do not consider when selecting a clinician.

READ MORE: Is Yelp an Effective Patient Resource for Treatment Decisions?

Only 9 percent of patients listed good online reviews as a driving factor when selecting a new clinician. Most patients are also unconcerned with a clinician’s demographic profile except for provider age. Patients are likely concerned with age because it is related to a clinician’s experience in the field.

Most patients do not care which gender their clinician is, although when patients do have a preference they are more likely to be female patients. Twenty-three percent of females prefer a female doctor, whereas only nine percent of males said it mattered if their doctor was male.

The survey shows that patients usually stay with their clinicians for a long time once they find the doctor who is a good fit. Forty-nine percent of respondents reported staying with their doctor for five or more years.

However, there were a few factors that could motivate patients to switch clinicians, the survey revealed.

One-quarter of respondents said they would switch doctors if the patient found one with a more positive attitude. Eighty-four percent of patients said competence was extremely influential when selecting a new clinician, and that competence was in fact more important than clinician empathy.

READ MORE: Top Strategies for Collecting Patient Financial Responsibility

Female respondents were more likely than males to be influenced by facility quality and convenience, with 78 percent of females saying that facility design, cleanliness, and comfort could factor into a clinician switch.

Interestingly, a desire for more or stronger patient-provider communication is not motivating many provider changes, the survey showed. Only 33 percent of patients reported wanting more communication with their clinicians.

Neither patients nor providers were very concerned with increasing secure text message communications, although clinicians think secure texting detracts from their core clinical responsibilities more than patients do.

Fifty-five percent of patients go to WebMD to find more information on their clinicians, and 40 percent visit Google Reviews. Only 3 percent of patients go to review websites dedicated to healthcare, such as ZocDoc or Healthgrades. Although some patients are reporting that they visit these websites, only 9 percent of respondents use online reviews to influence their treatment decisions.

Additionally, very few patients are contributing to online review websites. Virtually all respondents said they read online review sites, but only 19 percent of patients said they have left an online review. Patients said that they are far more likely to leave a review for doctors who exceed expectations than those who fall short.

READ MORE: Patient Satisfaction Data Transparency Aids Hospital Performance

Overall, patients are currently satisfied with their healthcare, the survey showed. Seventy-five percent of patients said that they are at least somewhat satisfied with their clinicians, with 46 percent reporting that they are very satisfied with their doctors. Only 13 percent of patients said they are dissatisfied with the care they receive.

Patient satisfaction increases with age, with 82 percent of patients over the age of 55 saying that they’re satisfied with their care. Sixty-seven percent of patients ages 18 to 34 reported the same.

The primary source for dissatisfaction is appointment wait times, the survey revealed. Patients reported entering the exam room on time, but by the end of the appointment having spent two-thirds of their appointments waiting for their doctors.

Healthcare organizations must consider the factors that motivate patients to select a certain provider and deliver on those preferences to continue boosting patient satisfaction, and thus market share. Healthcare professionals must also be mindful of their workload and timeframes, ensuring that they adhere to office schedules and reduce wait times for patients.

Doing so will be extremely important in the current healthcare landscape, Weatherby Healthcare President Bill Heller said in a statement. Due to the Affordable Care Act, more patients are accessing healthcare than ever before. Healthcare professionals must know what patients are looking for in a clinician to drive quality experiences, increase market share, and improve patient retention.

“More than 20 million people have gained access to healthcare in the past seven years as a result of government legislation,” Heller said. “It’s important that we know what patients are looking for in their healthcare providers so physicians and healthcare organizations can better attend to the needs of these individuals. This study shows us that patients really care about simple, hassle-free access to healthcare and doctors who are available and kind.”

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