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More patients in the market for a new doctor than hospitals might think

The reasons they would switch include prices and a desire for better services.

Jeff Lagasse, Associate Editor

About one-third of healthcare consumers are in the market for a new provider, and among millennials and all parents, the percentage jumps substantially, to 56 and 57 percent respectively, according to new research from healthcare marketing and research firm Valassis.

In today's competitive landscape, customer retention is a priority, but also a challenge for marketers -- with patients willing to switch for a variety of reasons. This consumer-driven challenge is more widely discussed in retail and grocery but also holds true in healthcare.

[Also: Despite providers posting prices, patients still not shopping around for services]

Valassis' research reveals that among those in the market for a new healthcare provider, 52 percent of millennials and 49 percent of parents could be persuaded to switch providers if an alternative was less expensive. Plus, 55 percent of millennials and 51 percent of parents looking for a new provider would consider changing doctors or care centers for better service.

Overall, the top three reasons healthcare consumers are looking to make a switch is due to relocation (27 percent); a change in insurance (23 percent); and dissatisfaction with their current provider (23 percent). Seeing advertising for a different doctor or center can also have an impact, influencing 17 percent of these consumers, and 27 percent of parents.

[Also: Employers, insurers shape healthcare spending more than consumer shopping, study suggests]

Online research and print advertisements can help fuel the healthcare decision-making process, the research found. Overall, 25 percent of consumers found a new provider through online research, with this number greater among millennials and parents, at 34 and 32 percent, respectively. Meanwhile, 61 percent of parents and 54 percent of millennials say a print ad triggered them to research a new health condition or provider -- as opposed to 39 percent of all consumers.

Location matters, so targeted advertising is key. In fact, 24 percent of consumers select a provider due to its proximity to home, providing an opportunity for smaller, local healthcare centers to stay competitive. A majority of consumers only want to drive a half hour or less.

To be successful, brands must engage consumers on an ongoing basis, according to Valassis. A full 39 percent of consumers -- and 61 percent of parents -- take as much time to research their doctor or healthcare center as they do when making a large retail purchase. And 64 percent of consumers who conduct research when looking for a new healthcare provider do so at least a month in advance before making a decision.

The data was derived from a nationally representative survey of more than 1,300 respondents.

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

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