The Internet is transforming how medical practices go about their business.
In 2005, a mere 6 percent of physicians offered appointment scheduling online. Moving into 2014, approximately 20 percent of doctors’ offices provide the opportunity for patients to make appointment requests through online scheduling services or patient portal. However, 80 percent of consumers prefer booking their appointments over the phone, according to a recent Vitals Index report.
The increased availability of technology has made online scheduling an important element of consumer behavior. Just as the travel and entertainment industry has slowly moved towards online reservations, physicians will begin to do the same. The Internet offers patients the opportunity to schedule appointments at their convenience. Before people select a restaurant or hair salon, many access the Internet to read ratings and reviews in order to make a buying decision. That trend will continue in the medical industry for 2014. Physician ratings and reviews are expected to gain even more visibility over the next 12 months. In the same Vitals Index report, a majority of respondents said that 5-6 reviews can give an accurate assessment about quality of service. The most popular site for today’s online consumers is Vitals.com, with more than 3 million reviews to date.
These findings can have a remarkable influence on future behavior. Nearly 47 percent of respondents who searched for a physician online changed their opinion about a physician after browsing their profiles. Meanwhile, 40 percent said that they felt more comfortable about their health care decisions after viewing online commentary. Seven percent said that they were convinced to find a new doctor.
Patient reviews were believed to be just as important as a physician’s experience in terms of determining his qualifications, with both measures coming in at 76 percent. Clearly, other patients’ online feedback about physicians has become a vital part of the selection process.