What motivates a patient to choose one primary care physician over another? Why do some patients switch providers while others remain loyal for years? We were after some real answers to these questions, so we asked over 500 healthcare consumers to tell us what they want from their doctors in a patient survey.
The news was generally good, but a little surprising. As intensely personal as the doctor-patient relationship can be, demographic preferences turned out to be less important to our survey respondents than more practical matters. Here are five of the top factors that influence their primary-care choices today.
- Are you on my plan? 77 percent of the healthcare consumers we surveyed listed finding a provider who is in-network on their medical insurance plan as critical or very important. Nearly half the respondents are ensured through work, and 95 percent are currently covered by some kind of health insurance plan. Private practices are the most popular facility type with 82 percent of patients.
- How much will my visit cost? Closely related to insurance concerns, 75 percent of the survey respondents said that lower out-of-pocket costs were a critical or very important influencer. Patients consider the deductibles and copays on their plan when they choose a primary care physician and show a significant preference for an affordable in-network doctor.
- Is your office easy to get to? 70 percent of respondents rated the provider’s location as critical or very important. They show a significant preference for doctors who work in a facility that’s easy to get to from home or work. Although patients tend to stick with an individual doctor more than with a particular facility, the survey indicates that convenience is still important to them.
- Can you really give me the care I need? Well over half the survey group listed the capabilities of the healthcare facility as a top concern. 60 percent rated available services or specialties as a critical or very important selection factor. Patients tend to care significantly more about a provider’s education, experience, and conduct history than appearance, empathy, gender, or demographic factors.
- Do you have hospital affiliations that work for me? 54 percent of respondents said that hospital affiliation is critical or very important to them when they choose or change doctors. When they need a hospital, they want to know that their doctor is going to be able to care for them in a clean, modern, well-designed facility.
Here are 4 things doctors will want to know about their patients
- People rarely leave reviews – when they do, here’s why. WebMD and Google Reviews are significantly more popular with our survey respondents than dedicated physician review sites like RateMDs.com. Patients do read reviews and tend to weight them equally with advice from family or friends. The ones who answered our survey said that they wouldn’t normally write a review unless their physician significantly exceeded their expectations.
- Communication preferences vary depending on the subject matter. Patients want to hear from you, but not always through the same channels. In the survey, more than half said they prefer old-school mailed letters for things like billing matters. For general communication, appointment reminders, and test results, the majority of patients want to connect by phone, with the next larger group saying they’d rather get an email.
- Time is as important to patients as it is to doctors. The majority of survey respondents say that their appointments start on time, and they’re happy about that. Once they’re in the exam room, however, many report that they’d like to shorten the wait to see the nurse or physician, which can take as much as a third of their time in the office. When it comes to scheduling appointments, a significant group would like more same-day flexibility to see their physicians, but most are happy with two days to two weeks’ notice to be able to get the appointment time they way.
- You don’t have to worry about leaving your patients with other doctors. 66 percent of our survey-takers said they’d had a positive experience with a secondary physician, mostly when their primary was temporarily out of the office. Only a quarter of respondents would seriously consider switching primary physicians if they found one that was more positive or knowledgeable.
With all the division and debate around healthcare legislation, consumers share surprisingly common views on what they want from their doctors. 75 percent of our survey respondents say they’re happy with their primary care physician or facility, and that’s a great foundation for trust in doctor-patient relationships.