Americans’ search for the right provider often begins with browsing physicians’ online profiles, the way one might look for a new hairstylist or plumber. These digital profiles — such as those found on a health system’s website, health plan directory or third-party healthcare website like Zocdoc or Healthgrades — must be robust in order to best attract and retain patients, according to a new report.
Kyruus, a startup focused on software to help pair patients with providers, sponsored the study that surveyed 100 primary care physicians and 100 specialist physicians about their digital provider profiles. The survey, which was conducted in April, included providers who have been in practice for more than a year, spend 20 hours or more per week seeing patients, are employed by a hospital or health system and treat patients in ambulatory settings. Nearly all respondents said that it is important for the hospitals or health systems that employ them to take a more active role in managing their profiles.
“A robust digital presence is a must-have for providers today,” said Karen Conley, Kyruus’ senior vice president of clinical services. “Our latest consumer research shows that nearly 60% of consumers use the internet when searching for care, so it’s important for providers to be searchable online to attract new patients.”
The survey found that providers focus on three top reasons for maintaining a strong digital profile: to showcase professional experience, to display academic research and publications, and to improve visibility to referring providers. Respondents said that they usually prefer to be involved in the creation and maintenance of their online profiles, as accuracy is vital and helps providers distinguish themselves for referring providers and patients seeking care.
To strengthen patient acquisition, providers want to make their profiles appear everywhere prospective patients may search online for care online, but they expressed this is difficult to ensure on their own. Two-third of respondents said it is important for healthcare organizations to be more active in channel expansion for their providers’ online presence. Health plan directories made the top of the list of external digital channels where respondents wanted their healthcare organization to more actively manage their profile, slightly edging out Google and third-party provider search websites.
Providers said having a more ubiquitous online presence will help them maintain visibility among a patient base that is demanding more digital resources.
“Today’s consumers are more digitally savvy and providers who offer a comprehensive online profile are helping to ensure they are proactively answering their patients’ questions about insurances accepted, services, locations, and even appointment availability,” Conley said. “The latter is especially important because our consumer research tells us that consumers may switch providers if they have to wait too long for an appointment.”
The report suggested that healthcare organizations need to actively engage their providers when building and expanding their digital profiles, encouraging them to continually improve and maintain their own profile information.
It also recommended that hospitals and health systems establish a clinically-led data governance strategy to ensure the accuracy and security of the data included in physicians’ online profiles.
“While providers place great value on their online profiles, most do not have the time or know-how to create and maintain digital profiles on their own,” Conley said. “That’s why it’s important for healthcare organizations to establish a provider engagement program to guide the process and a data governance strategy that puts controls and reviews in place to ensure provider profiles stay accurate and up-to-date.”
Photo: ijeab, Getty Images