5 things patients look for in a new doctor

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Gone are the days when patients relied solely on referrals, traditional advertising, and word-of-mouth to choose their physicians. For the modern patient, the approach to choosing a new doctor has evolved, and this process often begins with an online search. Approximately three out of four people have looked online to find information on a doctor, a dentist, or medical care — and more than half of patients do so regularly.1

Choosing a new doctor is a personal decision. During an online search, patients will assess multiple aspects of a physician’s web presence, including online reputation and the doctor’s healthcare website before deciding to schedule an appointment.

This whitepaper compiles some of the top things patients look for in their decision-making process — and provides doctors with valuable insight that can help influence patients to choose them. Read on for five things patients looking for when researching doctors online.

5 things patients look for in a new doctor

1. A high search ranking

When it comes to search, a good ranking can make all the difference in attracting patients to your healthcare website — and eventually choosing you as their doctor. This is true on any search engine, but especially on Google, which boasts 88.25 percent of all search engine traffic in the United States.2

Generally speaking, the lower your healthcare website’s position on a search result page, the fewer clicks it will receive. The number one desktop search result on Google receives about 31 percent of clicks, the second result receives about 16 percent, and the third result receives about 10 percent of the clicks.3

When returning search results, Google determines search engine rankings by a number of factors, including quality content, crawlability, page speed, mobile responsiveness, and whether the site is authoritative and trustworthy. Patients, in turn, also understand that the first results are the websites most likely to contain the information they’re seeking. Considering one in 20 searches on Google are health-related4 — an estimated 100 billion searches a year5 — having a prominent web presence will assist you in bringing patients through the door.

2. Positive patient reviews

Before booking an appointment with a doctor, patients want to learn from other patients’ experiences, and the majority rely on patient reviews to do so.

Seven out of 10 patients believe positive patient reviews and a strong star rating are either extremely or very important to their decision making process.6

What’s more, 59 percent of patients say online reviews are the most influential decision-making factor when choosing a doctor.7 And 72 percent of patients list online patient reviews as their first step when choosing a new doctor.8

Patients also expect providers to participate in online reputation management by not only monitoring their online reviews but also answering negative ones: 70 percent of patients believe its either very or moderately important that providers answer negative patient reviews.9 Considering only 26.1 percent of practices say they have a process for following up with negative feedback,10 you can stand out to patients looking for new providers by having a process in place.

3. A modern healthcare website

These days, it’s an expectation for any small business to have a website, and in healthcare, it is no different. Once a patient finds you online, they will use your healthcare website to learn more about you, your practice, your experience, the symptoms you treat, and the services you offer. It’s where providers can establish their credibility with new patients, and thus, it’s important that your healthcare website be modern. 

For starters, a modern healthcare website is one with a professional design. For example, if your website looks outdated, a patient may take it to mean the information on it is old and inaccurate. Patients may also perceive your practice as one that does not prioritize technology, which may deter them from requesting an appointment, as 54 percent believe technology has already improved their relationship with their doctor.11

A modern website also prioritizes user experience. In fact, 94 percent of people believe easy navigation is the most important website feature.12 If patients are frustrated while browsing your website, they are more likely to abandon the page without requesting an appointment.

A modern healthcare website is also high-performing, which means it loads quickly and is secure.

Page speed is important because 53 percent of all mobile web visits are likely to be abandoned if the page takes longer than 3 seconds to load.13

If a patient grows impatient with your website, they’ll turn to a different healthcare provider.

With rising concerns over privacy and data, patients also expect your healthcare website to be secure, which means that your website begins with HTTPS (rather than HTTP). This represents an encrypted connection between a web server and the browser and shows your patients that they can trust being on your website and, by extension, that they can trust your practice.

A modern healthcare website is one that patients find useful. Patients are looking for quality, well-written, and accurate content that helps them take an active role in their healthcare. They also expect to learn more about you as a provider via a healthcare bio and more about your practice, including hours of operation, location information, and a phone number.

4. Accessibility

Patients increasingly want more access to their healthcare providers. In fact, more than half of patients say convenience and access are the most important healthcare factors influencing their decision making.14

Patients also expect the use of technology to increase their level of access to providers: 47 percent of patients say they want to communicate with their providers via online chat or messaging, 41 percent say they would like to communicate with an app, and 38 percent of patients would like to video chat with their doctors.15

Additionally, patients want access to a provider’s schedule regardless of the hour. If a patient wants to book an available appointment after business hours, online scheduling can help.

Almost 70 percent of patients say they are more likely to choose a provider who offers the ability to book, change, and cancel appointments online.16

Plus, an analysis of PatientPop internal data reveals that patients will take advantage of online scheduling when a provider offers it: 35 percent of appointments booked online with a PatientPop practice were scheduled outside of normal business hours.17

5. Availability

It’s not much of a surprise that when a patient is ready to book an appointment, they want one as soon as possible, especially if they’re actively experiencing symptoms. However, providers have demanding workloads and often won’t have openings for days or weeks. On average, patients wait 2.7 weeks before their first appointment with a physician across all specialties.18 This can be even longer for certain specialists.

Research also shows that patients who wait more than a month for their first appointment are twice as likely to cancel than those who are scheduled within a week.19

Thus, patients are more likely to choose providers who have same-day or same-week availability in their schedule. For a provider looking to attract more new patients, it can be in your best interest to leave space in your schedule for patients who are new to your practice.

When it comes to attracting new patients, a lot can be done to make your practice stand out from the rest. PatientPop helps thousands of U.S. practices just like yours by engaging patients at every step of their journey — from the provider search to after the office visit — by expanding their web presence and assisting with online reputation management. 

The PatientPop practice growth solution makes it easier for patients to find you online and request an appointment via an online scheduling tool. Automated features reduce workload for practice staff, helping you focus more on patient care. Appointment confirmations and reminders help patients keep their appointments with you, and post-visit feedback requests provide valuable help keep your reputation strong.

To learn more about PatientPop, visit patientpop.com.

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5 things patients look for in a new doctor