The December 29th edition of American Medical News has an article about how patients choose physicians.
For primary care physicians, more than half of patients choose their doctor by word of mouth and another third choose their doctor based upon a referral from a health plan or from another health professional.
With specialists, a vast majority of patients choose them based upon a referral from the primary care doctor or another physician.
Almost 90% of the time a hospital is chosen based upon where a patient’s physician has privileges or based upon the recommendation of another physician. Friends and co-workers often ask me where they should go for treatment.
One of the interesting things about this survey – which was a national survey of more than 13,500 adults – was that very few patients chose physicians based upon internet sites and only a little more than 4% of patients chose hospitals based upon either the internet or upon “books, magazines, or newspapers.”
The Cliff Note’s version is as follows:
1. If you are a primary care physician, be nice to your patients and take good care of them. Not only will they stay your patients, but they will help you build your practice.
2. If you are a specialist, be nice to the primary care physicians. They account for more than two thirds of your business.
3. If you are a hospital administrator, see #1 above. Invest in your patients and your docs and the rest will follow.
Oh, and all that advertising isn’t doing much to gain you market share. Likewise, no one is paying much attention to that comparison bullhokey at www.hospitalcompare.whatever.com. Stop worrying so much about “quality indicators” that have no basis in science and start worrying more about being good to your patients and your staff physicians.
Word of mouth will get you a lot farther than that ad in the paper.