New Research Finds That Over 70% of Consumers Read Online Reviews When Considering a New Doctor

Consumers cite insurance acceptance, location, and patient reviews as the most valued criteria for a healthcare provider

Reputation, the global leader in Reputation Experience Management (RXM), announced new research detailing consumer preferences when choosing a new healthcare provider. The report, conducted in partnership with YouGov, the international market research firm, surveyed more than 1,000 U.S. consumers and discovered that over 70 percent read patient reviews when searching for a healthcare location or provider. Female consumers are even more concerned about the consumer feedback their doctor receives with almost 80 percent of women saying they read patient reviews before considering a new doctor.

Today’s patients are not only looking at the sentiment of online reviews but at the number of given reviews. The research showed that 80 percent of respondents expect five or more reviews before they deem a provider to be trustworthy, and 72 percent will only choose a doctor if they have 4-star reviews or higher. It’s undeniable that having positive online reviews attracts new business and boosts loyalty, and one of the ways healthcare providers can build stronger brand affinity is to respond to online reviews and complaints. In fact, 64 percent of consumers say it is important for healthcare providers to respond publicly to patient reviews.

Google has become the most important place for consumers to find and choose care, with over 70 percent trusting and searching for reviews on Google over any healthcare provider’s own website. The 2022 Healthcare Trends Report from Reputation uncovered that Google Business Profiles are as critical as a company website; 65 percent of organic searches result in a conversion from within the Google experience — without ever visiting the company website. Consumers want to schedule an appointment, start a virtual visit, or send a message to staff right from within the Google Business Profile.

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“For decades, patients had incredibly close relationships with their doctors and for many, this bond spanned years and even generations. The days of brand loyalty are gone, especially as the pandemic continues, and we continue to see rapid change in care delivery models as well as consumer expectations,” said Annie Hafner Haarmann, Head of Strategy and Consulting, Healthcare and Life Sciences at Reputation. “This is the same shift we have seen in other industries, where it’s become common to read reviews before buying a new product or review a restaurant’s menu before making a reservation. Healthcare consumers are using this information to make decisions about the services and providers that are the right fit for them.”

The survey also highlighted significant differences in how men and women choose care. Not only are women more interested in reading reviews of healthcare providers than men, but men and women also prioritize different provider attributes:

  • Gender of potential doctor – A priority for more women than men, with 20 percent of female respondents considering this, compared to less than 10 percent of men.
  • Accepted insurance – 75 percent of women consider whether or not a doctor takes their insurance, compared to 63 percent of men.
  • Extended hours – More women than men are interested in healthcare providers that offer hours outside of 9 am to 5 pm, with 19 percent of women prioritizing this compared to 15 percent of men.

Consumers also showed surprising preferences in communication with their chosen care provider, especially in this COVID-era of digital-first communications. A staggering 61 percent of patients over 35 years old preferred method of contact is a phone call, over text, email, online patient portal, or any other means. This number was significantly lower – at only 25 percent – for respondents 34 and under who preferred to be contacted via email. Reputation found a similar notion in our 2021 Healthcare Reputation Report, discovering that 32 percent of 27-34-year-olds cited online scheduling as very important versus roughly 15 percent of people aged 55+. This data once again highlights that the younger generation prefers digital options over phone calls.

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