Most consumers are willing to switch healthcare providers: Poll

About 7 in 10 will go elsewhere if there are better options, according to the new survey. Most said they want more convenience, including the ability to schedule appointments online.

Most Americans are willing to switch to another healthcare provider if there are more appealing and convenient options for care, a new poll has found.

Consumers also want the convenience of scheduling appointments online, according to a new Harris Poll commissioned by Tegria, a healthcare technology and consulting company.

Roughly 7 in 10 Americans (69%) said they would choose another healthcare provider for more convenience, the poll found.

Some of the key reasons consumers would consider switching providers include the chance of getting same-day appointments for issues that aren’t routine and more convenient locations. About 3 in 5 (61%) said they want healthcare providers to offer the convenience of popular consumer offerings such as Uber and Amazon Prime.

Rodina Bizri-Baryak, Tegria’s director of patient access and technology, said the survey was designed to gauge what is driving patients. She said the survey showed people are saying they need better tools to set up and manage healthcare appointments.

“They're evolving from patients into consumers,” she said in an interview.

“They’re looking for more convenient ways to be able to schedule their appointments, communicate with their physicians, and even have virtual appointments, so they can do them and fit them into their lives."

The one dominant theme emerging from the poll: customers want more convenience.

“You’re seeing now more people are interested in convenience, more available access,” Bizri-Baryak said. “Life is just busier.”

Overwhelmingly, those surveyed said they want to be able to go online to schedule and manage appointments. Roughly 8 in 10 (81%) said setting up appointments online would make scheduling much easier, while 79% said they want to use online tools to schedule appointments.

As Bizri-Baryak said, “I can book an Airbnb quickly. Why can’t I do that with healthcare?”

In addition, 3 out of 4 participants (75%) said technology options enabling consumers to pay bills or check test results are especially useful when working with a new provider.

“The world is changing,” Bizri-Baryak said. “And healthcare is just starting to catch up.”

Most Americans don’t enjoy the process of finding a new doctor. A majority (60%) said the process of seeing a new healthcare provider is frustrating.

The poll also found different preferences in telehealth, depending on their age. Most respondents (59%) said they were open to having a first appointment with a provider through telehealth. However, only 37% of those 65 and over would like their first visit as a virtual appointment, compared to 65% of those under the age of 65.

While patients said they want more convenient technological tools, Bizri-Baryak said the human touch still counts.

More than half (56%) said kindness from the healthcare provider is important for the first visit. This was particularly true for women. Two out of three women (66%) said kindness is important for a first visit, compared to 45% of men.

Healthcare leaders should understand that consumers want to be able to go online and easily book an appointment, Bizri-Baryak said. For those who are searching for a provider, healthcare organizations need to make it as easy as possible, so patients can learn about the practices and the professionals delivering care.

“We’re shifting from allowing someone to blindly go into a health system and essentially being guides and orienting them to the appropriate type of care they need, in addition to the right individual and the right timing for them to get their care,” Bizri-Baryak said.

More healthcare organizations are using technological tools to quickly access information about their patients, such as their demographics and family history, Bizri-Baryak said. This is where technology is making a difference for providers, she said. When patients talk to their providers, they don’t have to repeat the same information over and over again. That alleviates anxiety for patients.

“When patients feel like they’re calling someone who knows them and cares about them, it puts them at ease and it helps with retention and loyalty to the brand,” Bizri-Baryak said.

The healthcare organizations who develop the right technological tools and treat people well are going to attract new patients and keep more of their current patients.

“Invest in technology,” Bizri-Baryak said.

“Focus on the patient experience, not only the ROI, and it will come.”

The Harris Poll surveyed 2,019 U.S. adults from January 4-6, 2022. The survey included 1,611 participants who have seen a new healthcare provider in the past 5 years.