Consumers Turn to Social Media to Find Health Care Providers

Consumers are increasingly using online platforms such as social media to find and share information on health care providers, with 57 percent of survey respondents saying they’ve used Facebook to share health care experiences with others.

The report was released by Binary Foundation, an online reputation management firm. The 2019 Healthcare Consumer Insight and Digital Engagement survey sought to update information on how patients research and evaluate health care providers, and how they share that information.

Trusting online sources

The survey shows strong growth in the use of online tools by consumers. Among the findings:

  • 75 percent of respondents say they are influenced by online rating and review sites when selecting a provider.
  • 60 percent of consumers check the ratings and reviews of a provider, even when referred by another provider. That number is up 44 percent since 2018.
  • 80 percent of respondents believe online provider ratings and reviews are “somewhat” to “very” reliable.
  • Only 9 percent of respondents in 2019 said they do not use any websites or online platforms when selecting a provider. In a 2017 survey, 48 percent of respondents selected this answer in 2017.
  • This represents an 80 percent increase in consumers using some form of online website or platform to choose a provider.

The report said that consumers continue to list personal recommendations as the most important factor in choosing a physician, at 52 percent. Online ratings come in second, at 48 percent. Location and hospital affiliation tied for third, at 36 percent. Notably, insurance coverage was listed as the most important factor by only 27 percent of respondents.

“Although recommendations from friends and family rank among the most important factor when choosing a doctor, online ratings and reviews come in at a close second,” the study said. “It’s no longer enough to have good word-of-mouth patient recommendations or rely on patients to stay in-network for services. Evidence shows consumers are relying more on their own independent research to find the best quality care.”

Use of social media is growing rapidly

According to the survey, 51 percent of respondents said they have used social media to search for providers—a 621 percent increase over the report’s 2017 results. In addition to the 57 percent that reported sharing provider/hospital experiences, Google was also used to share information (49 percent), and hospital websites tied with the website Healthgrades as the third most popular place to share information (40 percent).

For all social media platforms, excluding Facebook, there has been three times the amount of provider/hospital feedback from consumers, compared to 2017. Only 5 percent of respondents said that they do not share feedback on online platforms.

Scheduling is a main focus

The report said that patients listed convenience issues as an important consideration; with “waiting to see the provider” and “scheduling” included among the most frustrating factors when visiting a health care facility.

There is also growth in the use of digital tools to schedule appointments. The report found that voice assistant devices have made a big leap: 30 percent of respondents said they have used platforms such as Siri, Alexa, and Google Home to find physicians—a 756 percent increase since 2018.

Although making physician appointments by phone has decreased by 45 percent since 2018, it is still the leading method, with 47 percent of respondents using that traditional route. Appointments made directly on a provider’s website is at 29 percent of respondents, a 100 percent increase from 2018.

The report concludes with a call for physicians to put more focus on managing their online presence. “This information proves that physicians and healthcare providers must pay attention to online platforms, including social media sites and healthcare listing sites, and manage reviews and ratings accordingly,” the report said.

Source: Scott Wooldridge via Benefits Pro


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