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Online Reviews, Patient Experience Outweigh Loyalty in Provider Selection

New data shows that 46% of patients rely on online provider reviews for provider selection. With loyalty on the back burner, a poor patient experience could prompt consumers to look elsewhere.

Online reviews and positive patient experiences are now critical in provider selection, and patients are quick to switch if their standards are not met, according to Tebra’s “2023 Patient Perspective Report.”

The survey, which detailed survey responses from 1,221 people nationwide, highlighted several factors influencing patient decisions in provider selection. Over half of the respondents cited word of mouth, 46 percent online provider reviews, and 39 percent online directories.

Having an online presence is essential for healthcare providers to attract new patients. According to the report, three out of four people search online for information on doctors, dentists, or medical care, especially when looking for new healthcare providers. A website is a good starting point, but providers should also focus on maintaining positive reviews, appearing in online directories, and creating other digital touchpoints. 

Based on December statistics from Press Ganey, patients typically visit at least three websites before booking an appointment, highlighting the importance of providing ample information online and in various locations. Keeping online provider reviews, office information, and patient access tools up-to-date is crucial in attracting discerning healthcare consumers to the organization.

The report indicated that positive reviews could be the difference between success and failure for some organizations. Just over a quarter (26 percent) of patients will move on after reading three negative reviews, and 56 percent will not consider a provider with a rating of fewer than 4.0 stars.

Moreover, patients typically read an average of 6 to 10 reviews before finalizing their decision. However, not all reviews carry the same weight.

Different generations have their own set of criteria for determining the value of a review. Gen Z patients, for instance, place a higher value on the average star rating (49 percent) and the recency of the review (32 percent). In contrast, Baby Boomers are less concerned about the star rating (31 percent) and place more importance on the most recent reviews (46 percent).

This year, availability and promptness have emerged as the top concerns for patients seeking healthcare services, surpassing staff friendliness and attentiveness. As the world returns to pre-pandemic conditions, healthcare providers face increased workloads and understaffed facilities, resulting in longer patient appointment wait times.

Specifically, 62 percent of respondents indicated that they value the availability of appointments, while 55 percent prioritize receiving prompt responses to their questions and concerns. Additionally, 53 percent of patients preferred having a welcoming staff. On average, 68 percent of patients would consider switching to a different healthcare provider that better aligns with their preferences.

The report indicates a decrease in the importance of patient loyalty, with nearly 50 percent of respondents stating they would give their healthcare providers only two chances before making a switch. This trend is further reflected in the growing number of online reviews left by patients, with almost half (48 percent) of respondents posting an online review.

Contacting patients who leave negative reviews is a worthwhile strategy, as most patients are satisfied with the response they receive from their healthcare team. Addressing concerns can help retain patients, even if it is perceived to be too late. More practices recognize the benefits of responding to negative feedback, with an increase from 51 percent to 68 percent of unhappy respondents indicating their healthcare provider has contacted them.

Additionally, healthcare providers should consider implementing patient engagement solutions such as appointment notification technology to improve patient satisfaction, communication, and retention.

While health IT can provide benefits, organizations must avoid relying too heavily on technology.

According to Accenture, digital engagement solutions are not a one-size-fits-all solution but a tool that should create a more personalized patient experience.

In addition, Accenture suggested that healthcare organizations should use health IT to reduce the burden on human resources, allowing them to concentrate on more high-touch, personalized interactions with patients.

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