Search Backs Social When Looking For Health Care Providers

Consumer behavior may have changed in the past year when it comes to searching for heath care service providers. Rather than searching on engines such as Google or Bing, consumers are searching on social media, according to results of a recent survey.

The Binary Fountain survey of 1,000 American adults conducted by One Poll between July 25 and July 26 — 2019 Healthcare Consumer Insight & Digital Engagement —  found that more people use social media, up 621% from the prior year.

Some 29% acknowledge they are using Instagram to look for providers, and 21% have used Twitter.

The study attributes online reviews, ratings, and recommendations to the rise of referrals from social media, rather than search. It shows a change in the behavior of consumers and the importance of social sites to healthcare providers and physicians as patients look for more than one source to make their decisions.

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And while consumers still look for personal recommendations, they research the provider’s reputation online, even after receiving a recommendation from family and friends or a physician referral in social media.

About 75% of respondents indicate that online reviews and ratings influence their decisions when choosing a physician, with 54% of consumers looking to Google ratings and reviews of potential physicians. Specialized healthcare listings sites such as U.S. News & World Report, ShareCare and ZocDoc still gain more users, compared with the prior year.

Voice search to find physicians has also grew in the past year -- up 756%. Still, online search engines remain one of the most popular sources of research for physicians, showing 60% growth since 2017.

Personal recommendations, at 51%, has become one of the most important factors when choosing a physician followed by online ratings with 48%, location at 36%, hospital affiliation at 36%, gender at 31%, insurance coverage at 27%, and CAHPS survey scores at 22%.

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