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Patient survey: Tracking patient behavior, preferences, and habits in healthcare in 2021

Results from the PatientPop 3rd annual patient perspective survey

Illustrated feature image for PatientPop 3rd annual patient perspective survey report

For the third consecutive year, PatientPop surveyed patients nationwide to ask about their recent experiences with doctors and dentists, what they want and expect from their medical care team, and how they choose their healthcare providers.

We then break down the responses in our annual patient perspective survey report, giving medical and dental practices insights to help better understand patient behavior and manage their operations. With this look at patient behavior and opinions, practices can identify which adjustments are worth making and how to better satisfy patients.

Key survey findings from the 3rd annual PatientPop patient perspective survey report

Key findings from the 3rd annual patient perspective survey report

  1. Most patients look online to find healthcare providers.
    3 of 4 people have searched online to find out about a doctor, a dentist, or medical care. 61 percent do so either sometimes or often.
  2. Reviews are the most influential online resource for patients.
    When choosing a healthcare provider, 74 percent of patients find online reviews very or extremely important. 69 percent say they will not consider a healthcare provider with an average star rating lower than 4.0 out of 5.
  3. More than half of patients prefer a digital connection for five key interactions with practices.
    At least 51 percent of patients favor digital interactions when: scheduling an appointment, filling out forms, asking a provider a question, paying a bill, and accessing health records.
  4. Patients prefer text messaging for appointment communications.
    Two-thirds of patients (66 percent) prefer text messages when receiving medical appointment reminders. Additionally, 59 percent would also like text message reminders to book their next appointment.
  5. There has been a notable level of patient attrition at practices.
    More than one-third of patients (36 percent) say they have left a healthcare provider in the past two years — eight of 10 did so because of a poor in-person experience and/or lack of access and communication.

Read the full report

Get your copy of the 3rd annual patient perspective survey report

How patients find and choose healthcare providers

According to PatientPop research, more than half of patients missed or canceled a healthcare appointment due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite COVID-19 concerns and interrupted access to healthcare providers, 92.5 percent of the patients we surveyed said they had at least one healthcare visit during the pandemic. Half of those patients had a telehealth visit.

When it comes to choosing their healthcare providers, patients consistently go online to make their decision. In fact, 75 percent of people have searched online to find out about a doctor, a dentist, or medical care.

data visualization showing 3 out of 4 people have looked online to find out about a doctor, a dentist, or medical care

Although this number has been consistent over the last three years, there is a gradual increase among those searching online regularly. In this year’s survey, 60.7 percent of patients said they seek information online sometimes or often, up from 58.4 percent in 2020 and 57.1 percent in 2019.

Online reviews are the most influential decision-making factor for patients evaluating a doctor or dentist. However, patients rarely refer to just one online resource. Two-thirds of patients who access their insurance company’s directory also read reviews of the providers elsewhere.

Resources that contribute to patients’ decisions

Bar graph showing resources that contribute to patients’ healthcare decisions

When choosing a healthcare provider, 74 percent of patients find online reviews very or extremely important, slightly up from 72.8 percent of patients in 2020.

The influence of online reviews on patient behavior

Pie chart showing the influence of online reviews for patients

While patients have long relied on online reviews to choose their providers, they are becoming even more selective: 69 percent say they will not consider a healthcare provider with an average star rating lower than 4.0. Nearly one in five will only consider providers that have a minimum of 4.5 stars.

data visualization showing that 69.1% of patients will not consider a provider with an average star rating lower than 4.0

Compared to last year’s survey results, patients are even more unwilling to choose providers who don’t have excellent review ratings: Patients who consider only 4-star practices rose 17 percent; those who require at least 4.5 stars (17.9 percent of patients) is up 53 percent from 2020.

What’s most important to patients in 2021

In responses similar to our 2020 survey results, patients place the greatest priority on the in-person experience. The top 5 aspects of the patient experience are: their healthcare provider being a good listener (67.1 percent), a short wait (52.4 percent), a welcoming staff (49.7 percent), a prompt response to questions and concerns (46.9 percent), and available appointments when they need (46.4 percent).

What patients would like most from their healthcare provider (besides quality care)

Bar chart showing what patients would like most from their healthcare provider (besides quality care)

When it comes to pre- and post-visit interactions, at least 51 percent of patients prefer a digital experience for 5 key activities (via text, email, or online access). In fact, more than 50 percent of patients said they preferred a digital option for paying their bill or asking their provider a question. More than 60 percent want a digital way to schedule an appointment, access their health records, and fill out registration and other forms.

Preference for digital interactions

Charts showing that more than 50 percent of patients prefer a digital option for 5 key interactions with their providers

The large majority of patients (66.3 percent) want to receive text messages — specifically for appointment-related reminders. Additionally, 58.9 percent want a text to remind them to book an appointment. Even for personal communication, text message is preferred as much as other options: More than one in four people (26.4 percent) want to receive answers to questions or feedback via text.

Bar chart showing preferences for receiving appointment reminders

How patients share reviews and feedback

The number of patients willing to share their experience online is increasing —44.6 percent of patients have posted an online review of a healthcare provider, up from 36 percent in 2020.

Of these patients, 37 percent have posted at least one negative review. The top three reasons a patient will leave a negative review? The quality of care delivered, the physician’s or dentist’s demeanor, and issues with the front desk staff.

Similar to years past, the vast majority of patients are sharing online reviews on Google.

Websites on which patients have posted reviews

Bar chart showing which websites patients most commonly use to share online reviews

When patients will switch doctors — and why many already have

More than one-third of patients (36.4 percent) have left a healthcare provider in the last two years. Eight of 10 said their decision was due to a poor in-person experience and/or a lack of access and communication. Top reasons patients listed for leaving include: a poor experience with a healthcare provider, a poor experience with office staff, slow or no response to questions, and long wait times at the practice.

Chart showing 36.4 percent of patients have left a healthcare provider in the last two years

This year’s results illustrate that patients desire what we think of as the patient experience “sweet spot”: a personal connection with providers as well as digital convenience, most notably in between visits. At PatientPop, we know that the medical and dental practices that prioritize meeting consumer demands will be best set up for success.

In fact, during the COVID-19 pandemic, our data showed that practices using digital practice management tools were at a measurable business advantage, returning to pre-COVID levels 14 weeks before a national average of practices.

For more insights, download the full 2021 patient perspective survey report.

Methodology

PatientPop surveyed 881 people nationwide in May 2021 using the SurveyMonkey Audience program. Respondents were 55.9 percent female and 44.1 percent male, with a census-balanced distribution across four age segments, ages 18 and older. Participants were not excluded by way of a screening question.

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Read the full report

Get your copy of the 3rd annual patient perspective survey report

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PatientPop is the leader in practice growth with the only all-in-one solution that empowers healthcare providers to improve every digital touchpoint of the patient journey. As experts in the healthcare technology space, PatientPop makes it easy for providers to thrive in the consumerization of healthcare and promote their practice online, attract patients, and retain them for life.

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