What doctors need to know about healthcare consumers

4e8351d59944d.imagePOST SUMMARY: Consumers of healthcare are changing the health landscape, including what they expect and want from physicians.  Physicians need to better understand these changes for a growing and profitable practice.

More and more research indicates that patients want more and better communication with their doctors.  Patients want to be able to schedule appointments via the Web and want integration of their medical records online.  These needs have a profound impact on the way doctors currently conduct business.

A survey from the Cleveland Clinic reveals all.

  • Nearly all patients — 85 percent — said that their doctor does something that bugs them. Nearly half of patients said that it aggravates them the most to wait for a long time at the doctor’s office, and 12 percent said that it bothers them most when their doctor tells stories to other people about their medical history or ailments.
  • Eleven percent said they feel aggravated most when their doctor rushes them, and 6 percent said limited office hours bug them most. Four percent of respondents said a sense of not being remembered by the doctor bugs them the most, while the same percentage also said that it bothered them most when they left the appointment without some kind of follow-up plan.
  • The vast majority of patients — 93 percent — are likely to select a physician who offers communication via e-mail, according to Catalyst Healthcare Research.  Of the 93 percent of patients indicating they would likely choose a physician offering e-mail communication, approximately 25 percent said they would still choose that physician if there was a $25 fee per episode, according to CHR.

Overall, the one thing patients want the most from their doctors is empathy. Eighty-two percent of survey respondents said that doctor empathy was important, and many were even willing to overlook common grievances — like rescheduling shortly before an appointment, waiting to get an appointment or waiting a long time to actually see the doctor once at the appointment — if the doctor is empathetic.

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The majority of patients don’t blindly take everything the doctor says as fact. Just 36 percent said they trust everything a doctor tells them, and always do what the doctor advises. Meanwhile, 49 percent said that when they talk to their doctor, they ask questions and challenge the doctor’s opinion, with college-educated people being more likely to do this than those with a high school diploma or less. The over-65 set is the most likely to fully trust doctors’ advice.

Almost Half of Physicians Do Not Follow Up With Patients; Only 9% Do So Through a Patient Portal

Given recent health initiatives for better patient engagement (and Stage 2 incentives), it was surprising to find that almost half of primary care physicians didn’t follow-up with their patients after a visit (outside of payment or billing notifications). Of patients who did report a follow-up, only 9.1 percent received it through a patient portal.

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Patients Prefer to be Contacted Over the Phone, then by Email

For general communication with their physician, patients largely prefer to be contacted by phone. Although phone calls did not garner an absolute majority, it was the most preferred method of communication in every age group (even among 18-24 year olds). Overall, 42.9 percent of respondents indicated it was how they’d like to be contacted for general communications.

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Email was the next most-requested method of communication with 25.1 percent, while just 13.6 percent of patients chose online messages as their preferred contact method. Interestingly, an additional 13 percent of respondents indicated they’d like their physician to contact them by letter.