Do you ever think about how patients actually choose a radiology center?
We already know that rendering excellent medical service is the main goal, that’s a given. But, it’s important to understand how your patients find you and why they choose your center instead of one of the other radiology groups in your area, or possibly doing nothing at all.
In this article, I will present you with a quick look at how patients choose a radiology practice, the factors which they weigh, and several effective ways to attract more patients to your practice.
1. Insurance is King
Let’s examine two studies to understand the extent to which insurance factors in when a patient is considering your practice.
According to a hospital study conducted by Google, 90% of patients reported that the most important thing they look for when first searching for a healthcare provider is that the provider is part of their healthcare plan. Because of this, health insurers are the most important resources for those seeking out a new healthcare provider.
In another recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), 89% of respondents said that whether a physician accepted their health insurance coverage was “very important” in their decision-making process. Another 6% said it was “somewhat important.”
Therefore, 95% of patients felt that a doctor accepting their insurance was indeed a key factor in beginning a doctor-patient relationship.
Clearly, a significant majority of patients choose the doctor or radiology centre specifically due to the fact that these doctors and centres accept their health insurance plans.
2. Location, Location, Location
It should be no surprise that the location of your medical practice also plays a key role in a patient’s decision-making process when selecting where to have their diagnostic testing done.
A patient is far more likely to choose a doctor that is conveniently located (whether close to their home or work) than a physician with superior qualifications who is a fair distance away. Ease of parking also comes into play here, as medical offices with inadequate, overly crowded, or extremely distant parking can pose as a deterrent to prospective patients.
3. Who (and What) You Associate With Matters
Patients often search the internet to see what other hospitals or associations your medical practice is affiliated with; therefore, their reputation can often be reflected onto you. Most patients desire a doctor’s office which feels safe, clean, and comfortable. Therefore, if your practice is within a lesser known hospital (i.e. one with a less than stellar reputation) or is located in a less than desirable part of town, chances are that a patient will be less inclined to pay you a visit.
4. Availability is Key
No one wants to have to wait weeks or months for their diagnostic imaging test. On one hand, limited availability can indicate that your practice is doing well. On the other hand, if a patient’s medical situation is dire enough, he or she will move on to the next physician or provider on their list. So, if your practice regularly has a waiting list, a recommendation to another provider who would be willing to accept your patient urgently is demonstrating goodwill. Patients will remember this kindness, and other physicians will appreciate your referral (and may repay your kindness in the future).
Additionally, extended hours of availability on weekday evenings and weekends can also play a significant role in the “convenience department” for many single and working parents seeking medical care for themselves and their children.
5. Referrals Are a Doctor’s Best Friend
Aside from the traditional ways of finding a doctor through health insurance networks, the best way for you to lure in more clients is simply by word of mouth recommendations. People are extremely inclined to choose a new doctor or healthcare facility if a friend, family member, or coworker gives his or her practice glowing reviews.
Even as the digital internet age continues to expand its overwhelming presence, research has shown again and again that at least 50% of patients prefer to have personal recommendations from a family member or friend over “Google reviews.” Even as more people use the internet to find a physician, word of mouth referrals will remain a very influential way to select a new doctor, especially one in a specialized field such as radiology.
6. Embrace (and Enhance) Your Web Presence
As vital as word of mouth referrals are for any medical practice, polls and studies are beginning to indicate that the number of patients searching for new healthcare providers online are climbing every day. “Digital Journey to Wellness,” a research report published by Google, indicates that 70% of consumers use search engines to research medical facilities.
Therefore, it is of the utmost importance for your medical practice to have an active and dynamic online presence (in order to help patients find you with ease and select you over other providers). Having a website dedicated to your practice provides patients with a wealth of knowledge about you and your facility before they decide to schedule an appointment. Familiarity makes patients comfortable, so you want your patients to feel like they know you before they even step foot into your office. Adding images or videos to your web pages is also a great way to develop a strong emotional connection with prospective patients.
A website can also give your patients the opportunity to book an appointment with you right on the spot. By featuring your phone number or an online booking engine, prospective patients can connect with you at their convenience to schedule their appointments. If you have a mobile-responsive site (a definite “must have”), you give prospective clients the opportunity to schedule on-the-go.
Lastly, a website allows you to reach potential clients residing outside your immediate area, who may be in search of your particular niche services or exceptional standard of care.
7. Ratings Can Make or Break You
Like it or not, the ratings your practice receives on physician rating websites do matter, as patients are relying more and more on these reviews today.
According to Sermo.com, prospective patients under the age of 35 most trusted Yelp to provide reviews about doctors. “For those who use online reviews, patients are most interested in information pertaining to quality of care provided, with 45 percent ranking it most important. This was followed by patient rating scores and wait times. Patients also feel that years of experience are most important when looking at a doctor’s demographics, even more so than a doctor’s certifications or academic background. However, certifications were still ranked most important by 27 percent of patients; thus, if you’re a younger doctor, stressing those accomplishments is important.”
Interestingly, though, only about 5% of participants in the JAMA study stated that they actually posted physician reviews on these sites, and only 3% said that they have ever posted an online review of a hospital. This suggests that more than half of all Americans looking for a new healthcare provider are relying on the opinions of only a small percentage of healthcare consumers, who could easily be extremely biased on either end of the spectrum.
So, what can you do if you find you have a few negative reviews about your practice floating around the web?
To begin, check review sites often, and record the comments pertaining to you or your practice. Staying abreast of comments made about your practice can be simplified using Google Alerts. This program allows you to sign up using your name (or your business name), and then you receive an alert any time that given name is mentioned on a rating or comment site. It’s important to address all negative comments in a respectful, calm manner, asking for ways to improve your practice and procedures.
As you can see, when a patient shows up for an appointment in your medical center, ample time, consideration, and research has already been invested on their part. They have carefully weighed these factors and chosen your practice over others for a reason. Therefore, it’s well worth your time to examine your practice’s strengths and weaknesses to see if your center needs improvement in one or more of these areas.
A simple patient survey on their intake form can provide a lot of insights into how the patient finally chose your center. Even a small improvement in each area can boost your reputation among prospective patients and referring physicians.
In the end, a patient wants to feel safe and secure with their medical choice…and you want that choice to include your practice!
Have you discovered any additional factors that your patients have mentioned as vital when searching for a diagnostic imaging provider? If so, please share with me below.