The healthcare patient experience has evolved substantially over the past decade. Every year, new digital tools enter the mainstream. This has both caused unprecedented levels of transparency and permanently altered how patients interact with their healthcare providers. To take the pulse of patient preferences and expectations, Doctor.com conducted a survey on patient healthcare trends in 2018. The results helped us gain insight into the end-to-end patient experience, from searching for a doctor to booking an appointment to managing follow-up conversations to providing feedback. We learned that a high-quality customer experience at every step of the patient journey will be of critical importance as we move into 2019 — and beyond.
Here are the top four patient healthcare trends to look out for in the new year.
1. A strong online presence will make or break your practice
Today’s journey to the doctor’s office begins — and continues — online. 77% of patients start their search for a healthcare provider on the web, and 63% report that they will choose one provider over another based on a strong online presence. Providers must acknowledge that digital channels influence patient decision-making, then adapt accordingly.
The good news? Providers can take a few simple steps to strengthen their online presence. This includes setting up or claiming your free profiles on all the sites patients use to search for doctors and embracing a consistently growing stockpile of patient reviews.
2. Online reviews will replace word-of-mouth referrals
According to the PRC, 2016 marked the first time the use of online rating sites like Yelp surpassed word-of-mouth referrals. And patients are flocking to these sites in their search for healthcare providers. In fact, 84% use online reviews when deciding on a new doctor, and 74% will opt for one provider over another because of negative reviews. Furthermore, healthcare providers must be conscious of what patients are saying about them online even if they have strong referrals: 81% will turn to the web for second opinion after they’ve been referred.
Online reviews lend credibility to a practice. Prospective patients want to see that vote of confidence when they look you up online. Learn how to harness the power of patient reviews to grow your practice.
3. Online scheduling and digital communications will be the norm
The ability to book or request appointments online is in hot demand. And this trend continue to grow year over year. In 2018, 31% of patients consider online scheduling options when deciding on a provider, and 42% even report that being able to schedule or reschedule an appointment online has impacted their choice of healthcare providers.
This trend toward digital capabilities is mirrored in how patients prefer to communicate with their healthcare providers. 53% prefer appointment reminders via text messages, and 17% prefer email. It’s important to reach patients through their channels of choice: 70% think doctor communications — like follow-up and annual checkup reminders — matter when leaving a five-star review.
4. Excellent customer service will be the crux of patient loyalty
82% of patients identify customer service as the most important factor in a five-star experience, assuming they receive quality care. This includes physician demeanor and attentiveness as well as the helpfulness of staff. To get more five-star reviews and improve your online presence, you should consider the factors beyond care that contribute to the patient experience, from the cleanliness of facilities to amenities in the waiting room to the ease of registration and more.
Excellent customer service promotes an environment patients want to return to. Plus, if you’re looking to expand your practice in 2019, the quality of your customer service can turn happy patients into evangelists who will sing your praises in person and online, attracting new patients and getting them through your doors.
Learn more about what patients want out of a healthcare experience and expect from their interactions with doctors. Download the full report for a deeper dive into Doctor.com’s findings on patient healthcare trends.