Binary Fountain released the findings of its second annual “Healthcare Consumer Insight and Digital Engagement” survey with the goal of getting an updated view into how patients search, evaluate and share their experiences with their physicians. The survey shows an increase in patients’ dependence and reliance on online ratings and review sites to make informed healthcare decisions.
Americans Are More Comfortable Sharing their Healthcare Experiences Online
Today, social media platforms are being used to discuss and share all elements of a person’s life, which now includes healthcare experiences. The survey results showed that consumers have become increasingly comfortable with sharing their personal healthcare experiences online. In particular, millennial consumers between the ages of 18 and 34 are the most active over social media and are the most inclined to share their healthcare experiences online.
According to the survey, 51 percent of Americans say they share their personal healthcare experiences via social media, online ratings and review sites, a 65 percent increase from the 2017 survey results. Specifically, 70 percent of millennials have shared their physician or hospital experiences online, and 68 percent of “young millennials” between the ages of 18 to 24 said they have shared their healthcare experience online — a 94 percent increase from last year.
The survey finds that Facebook is the most used channel to share healthcare experiences for ages 25 to 54. However, unlike last year, consumers between the ages of 18 to 24 say Google is their preferred online platform to share their healthcare experiences. In 2017, survey respondents between the ages of 18 to 24 selected Twitter as their most used channel to share healthcare experiences.
Growing Dependence on Online Ratings and Review Sites
The survey shows that healthcare consumers continue to depend on online ratings and review sites. More and more, consumers are seeking online healthcare advice and relying on unfiltered, transparent patient feedback to determine whether a healthcare practitioner or practice is worth a visit. The below survey results reflect the true impact that online ratings and review sites have on consumers, as well as, the continued rise in healthcare consumerism.
Ninety-five percent of respondents find online ratings and reviews “somewhat” to “very” reliable with 100 percent of respondents between the ages of 18 and 24 find online ratings and reviews “somewhat” to “very” reliable and 97 percent of respondents between the ages of 25 to 34 do as well.
Likewise, 70 percent of Americans say online ratings and review sites have influenced their decision when selecting a physician, and even when referred by another doctor, 41 percent of consumers still check online ratings and reviews of doctors and specialists.
Of the respondents that utilized websites/platforms to choose a physician, 34 percent selected hospital and/or clinic’s website as a primary source, followed by Google (29 percent), WebMD (18 percent), Healthgrades (15 percent) and Facebook (12 percent).
Expectations Remain High for Patient Care
Patients today have high expectations for customer service and bedside manner. The survey examined, through multiple-answer questions, what factors matter most to patients when rating or evaluating a physician. The survey results revealed:
Consistent with the 2017 survey results, 48 percent of Americans across all age groups selected “a friendly and caring attitude” as the most important factor.
Whereas, 47 percent of consumers selected “ability to answer all my questions” followed by 45 percent of consumers who selected “thoroughness of the examination” as the most important factors.
Overall, 52 percent of women believe “a friendly and caring attitude” is the most important factor, while 45 percent of men believe “ability to answer all your questions” is the most important factor.
As in all areas of life, social media also permeates healthcare. As practice leaders, hospitals and facilities, and providers wrestle with strategies for capitalizing on the communication forum, some have found success while others continue to struggle.
For each person that has made the attempt, though, valuable experiences have been gained, some worth sharing.
In the piece, Sevilla offers advice to physicians about the need to engage in regular and ongoing social media activities.
Physicians, he says, must begin to interact with patients and the public through a variety of social channels including blogs for no other reason than because patients are beginning to demand it. Without the outside the office interactions, patients begin to disengage from their physicians and seek alternative sources who are willing to meet them where the live.
Seville offers a few compelling reasons for physicians and their practices to engage socially, including:
Social media allows physicians the opportunity to tell their story – telling your story provides evidence of your experience and helps establish you as a leader in the space. Doing so also helps patient consumers have a reason to “buy in” to your system.
Social media allows you to find a community – by connecting with others, you are able to establish bonds, develop stronger collaboration with peers and bring people together for a unified cause.
Social media allows you to discover your passions outside the practice – social media helps you explore new ventures and avenues for creating relationships and bonds outside of the practice.
Social media leads to free marketing opportunities – social media helps you connect with others, Sevilla said. Those connections mean you are marketing yourself and your practice without having to spend anything but your time.
Social media allows physicians the opportunity to manage their online reputations – conversations are taking place about many of us, physicians or not. If we know what is being said, you can help protect ourselves and your practices.
There are a few things Sevilla fails to mention in the piece, though.
For example, social media is more than about building one’s own brand and developing recognition for one’s own efforts. Engaging in social media is about creating relationships with others; specifically, patients.
As such, when using social media tools in the healthcare setting, you must stay close to your customers. Social media can, and should, be used to generate conversations with the public and build relationships with those you are serving. In doing so, you gain ground in each of the areas Sevilla mentions above.
In addition, physicians and practice leaders may consider using social media as an educational tool for patients. With less than 10 minutes of face time with a physician on average, patients can turn to their social media tools to learn more about a certain procedure, to ask generalized questions or to learn how the practice’s online patient portal, appointment setting or how billing and payment processes work.
Also, consider using your Twitter feed to ask questions of your patients. Conduct informal surveys asking for feedback about visit times, practice hours or services offered. Set up a weekly or monthly lunch-hour Twitter chat where a physician takes generic questions from the public or set aside a week each month to provide health and wellness tips about certain conditions.
The results of these efforts may surprise you. And soon, you’ll discover that conversations on social media are two way rather than one sided. Perhaps you’ll even have your own strategies to share.