Word of Mouth and Physician
Vision of People Picking Providers Based on Price and Quality Information Far from Reality
While these finding aren’t “surprising” per se, this study validates what has been the working assumption for so long: word of mouth is the most effective marketing for medical practices. Specialists generate new patients mostly from physician referrals. Primary care is more diverse – multiple sources, including other physicians; word of mouth, and searches. There is some other data which suggests that people use the web to “check out” a physician, and I would speculate that it could be a deciding factor in which physician to go to. I would also argue that websites and other media are the tools for retaining patients. For younger patients – teens, 20s-30s, online sources certainly are more commonly used and relied upon.
I have enough trouble keeping up with what’s happening in my own fields of work. I’m also supposed to somehow become expert in managing my money, planning for retirement, and managing my healthcare. Search for price and quality information? Information which is often sketchy, and muddled – it’s usually not clear cut that a physician or hospital is “bad”. Word of mouth will often spread that information.
I’ll be writing more about word of mouth and other effective marketing tools over the next few months. Look for my audioconference on managing through a recession January – free, by the way (long distance charges may apply).
Here’s the press release from the Center issued this morning:
While sponsors of health care price and quality transparency initiatives often identify all consumers as their target audiences, the true audiences for these programs are much more limited, the study found.
In 2007, only 11 percent of American adults looked for a new primary care physician, 28 percent needed a new specialist physician and 16 percent underwent a medical procedure at a new facility, according to findings from
“Most Americans still rely on information from friends and family when choosing a primary care physician, and few Americans actively shop or consider price or quality information—especially when choosing specialists or facilities for medical procedures,” said Ha T. Tu, M.P.A., an
When selecting new primary care physicians, half of all consumers relied on word-of-mouth recommendations from friends and relatives, but many also used doctor recommendations (38%) and health plan information (35%), the study found. Nearly two in five used multiple information sources when choosing a primary care physician, but when choosing specialists and facilities for medical procedures, most consumers relied exclusively on physician referrals, according to the study.
The study’s findings are detailed in a new
Other key findings include:
? Use of online provider information was low, ranging from 3 percent for consumers undergoing procedures to 7 percent for consumers choosing new specialists to 11 percent for consumers choosing new primary care physicians.
? Approximately 25 million adults—more than one in 10 adults—reported looking for a new primary care physician at some point in the previous 12 months. Seventeen million of these adults found a new
? Almost 63 million adults—nearly three in 10—said they needed a new specialist in the previous year, with 46 million actually seeing a new specialist. Almost seven in 10 of the 46 million relied on referrals from their primary care physician to find a specialist, with almost six in 10 relying exclusively on this source. One in five used recommendations from friends and relatives, and only 15 percent used multiple sources of information. People with chronic conditions and those in fair or poor health were more likely to rely solely on their primary care physicians’ referrals, while younger and more-educated consumers were more likely to turn to other sources, including the Internet and health plan information.
? About 35 million adults—nearly one in six—reported undergoing a medical procedure at a new facility in the past year. In choosing facilities for procedures, consumers were even more reliant on physician guidance. Nearly three in four consumers who had procedures relied on the referral of the physician performing the procedure; almost all of these consumers used no other source of information.
Alternative information sources were used by relatively few consumers, and only one in 12 used multiple information sources when choosing a facility. Older people and those with chronic conditions were more likely to rely solely on their physicians’ referrals in choosing a facility for a procedure.
The Center for Studying Health System Change is a nonpartisan policy research organization committed to providing objective and timely research on the nation’s changing health system to help inform policy makers and contribute to better health care policy.