Blog | Friday, December 5, 2008

Want more patients? Charm the ones you've got.

There are hundreds of health care rating schemes out there that aim to help consumers pick a doctor or hospital. Trouble is, people don't use them.

A new study by the Center for Studying Health System Change finds that, rather than use price/quality information to pick a physician, most Americans ask their friends and family, or take referrals from their current physician. The study found:

  • About half of health consumers use word of mouth to find a new primary care doc, while about 38% use doctor recommendations and 35% use health plan information.

  • Almost two-fifths used more than one source of info to pick a primary care doc.

  • Most patients rely solely on doctors' referrals when picking specialists and facilities for medical procedures.

  • Only 3%-11% of patients use online provider information. The higher end was for those choosing a new PCP; the lower end was for those undergoing procedures.

  • In the last year, 46 million people saw a new specialist. Nearly seven in 10 chose that specialist based on a referral from their PCP; six in 10 relied solely on the PCP in making that choice. One-fifth used a friend/family recommendation.

  • Younger patients with more education were more likely to use the Internet or health plan information to find a specialist, while those with chronic conditions and in poor health were more like to use their PCP's recommendation.