Patients Rely On Google Research More Than Any Other Source

Finding a physician that’s right for you is no easy task. Not only do Americans have to contend with insurance coverage, but picking a doctor that meets all your needs can be time consuming.

According to a OnePoll survey conducted for Binary Fountain, 75% of people put faith in online reviews before choosing a provider. Reliance on provider reviews is growing, with 60% jumping online even after getting a referral from another physician. That’s up 44% from 2018.

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Online reviews for any product or service aren’t necessarily reliable, as most people who take the time to provide feedback have strong negative opinions. According to an Inc article from February 2018, it takes 40 positive reviews to counter a single negative one. Still 80% of respondents to the OnePoll survey say they believe that online ratings are “somewhat” or “very” reliable.

Google is the primary source (53%) for those looking for healthcare provider reviews, beating out even hospital or clinic websites. Facebook (48%) is another regular stop for patients making healthcare decisions, with HealthGrades (42%) trailing right behind. Surprisingly, Instagram (28%) makes the list, though significantly further down.

Social media continues to grow in popularity for finding physician information, with 51% of respondents indicating that channels like Facebook and Instagram are in their research mix. Snapchat has grown as a research tool, also.

This is powered by a growing number of patients sharing their experiences using social tools. Facebook leads the pack, with 57% of respondents saying that they shared their experiences on the platform. Google trails just behind that at 49%, suggesting that more people are currently seeking out information on the search engine than populating review portfolios.

Social media platforms as a whole tripled in provider feedback since 2017 when Facebook is removed from the calculation. Facebook by itself saw a jump of 170% in the same period. Instagram leads the pack with a 506% increase in two years. In fact, only 6% of survey respondents said they don’t share physician reviews or feedback online. That’s a drastic drop from 2017’s 69%.

But what are people looking for in a provider? More respondents are pointing to Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems scores as a key driver. CAHPS participation is voluntary, but according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, some surveys can impact physician reimbursement levels. “CAHPS surveys cover topics that are important to consumers and focus on aspects of quality that consumers are best qualified to assess, such as the communication skills of providers and ease of access to health care services,” according to the official website.

Other responses have been consistent from year to year. Patients are looking for knowledgeable doctors that can answer their questions, treat them kindly, and provide thorough examinations. And as insurance gets more challenging to navigate, people are de-emphasizing geography and insurance coverage as reasons to choose a physician.

In other words, even as healthcare costs balloon, many people are prioritizing the best coverage. Out of pocket costs and long drives seem to be a better choice than a physician who hasn’t received positive reviews on Google and social media.