Consumers Using Online Tools, Word-​of-​Mouth to Find New Physicians

The federal government, health insurance companies, and exchanges are spending millions to encourage consumers to sign up for coverage under the new Affordable Care Act. However, these aren’t the only organizations targeting consumers with doctornew ad campaigns. The American Osteopathic Association (AOA) is encouraging physicians to pay attention to the criteria patients use when evaluating them and to advertise accordingly.

AOA research indicates that up to 30% of consumers are changing their primary care physicians in any 5‑year period. Consumers end their relationships with their primary health care providers for a variety of reasons. The most frequently cited issues include moving out of the area (34.7%), not feeling a good fit with the physician (33.9%), and changing insurance companies (21%).

In the next year, some consumers will be seeking physicians for the first time ever. This is one of the positive outcomes of the new legislation. Other consumers will be seeking to replace their physicians. In all cases, AOA research shows that consumers  consider the following factors:

  • Acceptance of insurance plan (83.3%)
  • Bedside manner/​empathy (60.5%)
  • Proximity of office to home, work or school (57.4%)
  • Convenient office hours (42.9%)
  • Medical specialty (37.5%)

Consumers tap a wide variety of information sources about medical service providers. The relationship between a patient and physician is often sensitive and personal so it's no surprise that word-​of-​mouth (65.9%) remains the top influencer when consumers select a new provider. However, more prospective patients are also using online tools to find a doctor. They're often researching not just for themselves but also for their children and for older family members. Insurance provider directories (51.9%), physician rating websites (22.8%), hospital websites (10.8%) and consumer review sites (10.5%) all play a role in the selection process. As a result,  physicians should be working to enhance their online profiles. They may also want to monitor their ratings on social sites and engage with consumers who leave comments.

To learn more about a specific physician audience, such as Likely Orthopedic Patients, check out the AudienceSCAN report available on the Research Store at ad​-ology​.com.

Kathy Crosett
Kathy is the Vice President of Research for SalesFuel. She holds a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Vermont and oversees a staff of researchers, writers and content providers for SalesFuel. Previously, she was co-​owner of several small businesses in the health care services sector.