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Consumerism is driving patients to find healthcare providers online

Kyruus report underscores the need for health systems to invest in their websites and digital strategies to attract and engage new patients online.

Jeff Lagasse, Associate Editor

The majority of consumers consult the internet in the search for a new provider, yet most still prefer to schedule appointments by phone, according to new research from Kyruus, focusing on how consumers search for, select, and schedule appointments with healthcare providers.

Consumers also take a wide variety of factors into account when considering potential providers --  demonstrating that while health systems should enhance their digital presence to provide consumers with the information they seek online, they must do this as part of an integrated, multi-channel patient access strategy.

[Also: AMA, Lexis Nexis partner on new provider directory tool]

The findings show that patients are taking a more active role in their healthcare decisions and vetting providers thoroughly. In fact, the data reveals that even when they receive a referral for a specialist, 90 percent still conduct research on providers before scheduling with them.

Despite the fact that consumers value hospital/health system affiliation (three out of four said it was extremely or very important), only a small minority start their provider research on hospital/health system websites; the largest share start with a general internet search. This underscores the need for health systems to invest in their websites and digital strategies to attract and engage new patients online, as well as retain existing ones.

Among other findings are that patients consider "insurance accepted" the most important factor when selecting a provider, with three out of four rating it as extremely important. Relevant clinical expertise was the second key factor at 53 percent.

[Also: Riding wave of consumerism, Urgent Care market hits $15 billion, Kalorama Information reports]

Four out of five consumers cite appointment availability as a key factor when selecting a provider, and over 60 percent have searched for an alternative provider to obtain an earlier appointment.

Meanwhile, more than 40 percent of consumers say they trust online reviews "completely" or "very much," while overall, 62 percent prefer to book appointments by phone, citing speed of booking and personalized service as the top two reasons.

Convenience is key for millennials in particular. About 79 percent have continued their provider searches to look for an earlier appointment and two out of five prefer to book online, indicating that pressure on health systems to enable and enhance online scheduling will only rise.

Twitter: @JELagasse
Email the writer: jeff.lagasse@himssmedia.com

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