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How Patients Choose Physicians

By Anna Mueller, MS11 Dec 2017

how-patients-choose-physiciansHow do patients choose a doctor or surgeon? That seems to be the million-dollar question for many physician practices and hospitals, and according to whom you ask, the answer is usually different.

Factors that Influence How Patients Choose Physicians

For example, millennials are more likely than baby boomers to crowdsource their choice of physician, using a combination of online reviews and recommendations from family or friends.

Other times, patients are advised to choose a physician if he or she is accepts their insurance. Additional factors that could play into a person’s decision include:

  1. Hospital affiliations
  2. Board certifications
  3. How they are treated by practice staff
  4. The doctor’s treatment policy
    Medscape asked physicians why patients typically choose them and this is what they discovered:
  1. Word of mouth had the biggest influence
  2. The physician’s reputation for quality of care was the second highest influencing factor
  3. Other considerations were appointment availability and if the physician was considered an expert in his or her field

How Patients Choose a Surgeon

While the acceptance of a patient’s insurance played a large role in whether someone chose a surgeon, so did a referral from a primary care physician. Other factors included physician and hospital reputation. Surprisingly, recommendations from family or friends held little weight over a patient’s decision.

Interestingly, Medscape found that patients with a scheduled surgery searched for their surgeon online. Patients who were older, had less than a college education and were unemployed were less likely to look for surgeons online.

Common Sites for Patient Reviews 

Though only a third of patients who responded to the Medscape survey researched their surgeons online, those who did commonly used these sites:

  1. Yelp
  2. Healthgrades
  3. A website for the hospital or practice
  4. Their insurance plan comparison tool
  5. Angie’s List

Online search activity for physicians and surgeons is expected to increase as millennials begin to need more health care as they age. However, the current low rate of online searching and comparing found in the study may be attributed to the fact that the available data online isn’t compelling enough to influence a person’s decision. Often, notes Medscape, the only thing included is patient reviews, and while helpful in some regard, other factors like surgical volume, complication rates and ranking among peers also could provide additional value online.

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