As we turn the corner to the second half of the decade, we’re witnessing the emergence of several key trends related to patient engagement, especially in terms of online behavior. Based on recent research findings, it looks like 2015 will be remembered as the year when the elusive and seemingly mythical “ePatient” got real. If you, like me, have grown wary (and weary) of industry data dumps, I’ve attempted to boil things down to five key indicators that seem to signal a significant phase change. Patient engagement is being radically transformed by digital technologies along the entire patient journey, leading to remarkably altered levels of transparency, speed, and crowdsourcing.
Consider the following findings:
· 37% of patients reported contacting their physicians via email within the past 6 months. (1)
· 42% of patients reported using online physician reviews to locate a doctor. (2) Healthgrades and Yelp are the most trusted sources for HCP reviews.
· 44% of patients would go out-of-network for a doctor who has more favorable reviews. (3)
· 56% of patients use YouTube search to learn more about their condition. (4)
· 84% of patients Google their condition after receiving an initial diagnosis. (5)
Based on the confluence of these data points, I’m 99.9% certain that these digitally empowered patients will dramatically transform the healthcare system, especially in terms of:
Transparency – Whether it’s emailing physicians, checking physician reviews on Yelp, or Googling a condition, the increasingly digitized patient journey brings unprecedented levels of transparency to all aspects of diagnosis and care.
Speed – When a bureaucratic, slow-moving system like healthcare goes digital, the speed of transactions and time between customer touchpoints will accelerate dramatically.
Crowdsourcing – While word-of-mouth has always played a powerful role within healthcare, it has traditionally been difficult for patients to accurately and objectively gauge physician performance. Now, as patient sites and online reviews begin to dominate the patient decision-making process, crowdsourced wisdom from sites such as Healthgrades, Yelp, and PatientsLikeMe will become even more influential.
Transparency, speed, and crowdsourcing—enabled through digital technologies—are redefining the expectations of patient engagement. In parallel, this dynamic promises to transform healthcare marketing and communications as life-science brands, network providers, insurers, and even physicians look to reach patients who have been radically empowered and informed by digital tools, online communities, and unprecedented access to information. While it seems like we’ve been waiting forever, ePatients have truly arrived—let’s serve them well.
(1) Patient Use of Email, Facebook, and Physician Websites to Communicate with Physicians, Journal of General Internal Medicine.
(2) Patient Use of Online Reviews
(4) Manhattan Research, Google Consumer Study 2015.
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