- A strong online presence is becoming increasingly important for a quality patient experience and sparks patient retention and consumer loyalty, as 80 percent of patients use the internet to make decisions about their care, according to a recent survey.
The survey of over 1,700 patients was conducted by Doctor.com and queried patients about the factors that influence patient satisfaction and ensure strong patient retention rates. Overall, a positive online presence emerged as the top factor related to patient loyalty.
In a time where online provider reviews are gaining popularity, these insights might influence how a provider presents herself in the digital space.
Eighty-one percent of patients said they read online provider reviews, and 60 percent said they have chosen one provider over another because of positive online reviews. Ninety percent will change their mind about a referral if they see poor online reviews, defined as reviews with three stars or less. Fifty-three percent said they would change their mind about a provider they have already seen due to poor online reviews.
Seventy percent of patients said reviews about high quality care are most important and influential, and 60 percent went as far as to say they would not book an appointment with a provider with poor quality care scores.
There is no age limit on patient interaction with online provider reviews. Three-quarters of patients over the age of 60 said they have used the internet for healthcare searches in the past year, and 90 percent have used an online provider review and would change their mind upon finding a poor online review of their doctor.
Although online provider reviews are gaining popularity, the primary method for provider referral is still word of mouth, the survey revealed. Over half of patients said they hear about their providers from a family member or friend, and 18 percent said they received a referral from their health payer. Nonetheless, online provider reviews have helped those patients assess those recommendations.
Patients are also looking for digital healthcare solutions after they have selected a provider, including during the appointments scheduling process. Forty-five percent of patients prefer using online tools to book their appointments, and 42 percent have chosen a clinician specifically because of the opportunity for online appointment scheduling.
Additionally, 71 percent of patients said they prefer digital appointment reminders via text message or email, as opposed to receiving a phone call reminder.
Online appointment scheduling can make or break patient retention for 61 percent of patients. Other important factors included meaningful patient engagement and quality communication (70 percent of patients) and good customer service (82 percent).
Amidst all of these preferences, patients said quality care is a must-have. Good customer service and online appointment scheduling are meaningless if care quality is subpar.
Waiting room amenities are unimportant to patient retention, the survey respondents revealed. Only 16 percent of patients said waiting room amenities contribute to patient retention rates.
This runs counter to many providers’ apprehensions about the shifting focus toward patient satisfaction. Some clinicians may be concerned that patient satisfaction does not prioritize quality care. In fact, patients need to receive quality care before they can appreciate other aspects of healthcare, the survey revealed.
These survey results also emphasize the transition toward more consumer-centric healthcare, according to Doctor.com CEO Andrei Zimiles.
"The fact that 81% of patients will read reviews about a provider, even after they've been referred, indicates that we've entered a truly consumerist era of healthcare. Patients depend on online sources of information more so than ever, and are using all of the digital tools available to inform themselves and make healthcare decisions," Zimiles said in a statement. "While it is paramount for healthcare organizations to provide quality care, they must also focus on building a strong online presence and a seamless customer journey. It's what today's patients expect."