Before the invention of the Internet, most people stuck with the doctors or dentists in their hometowns. If they needed care outside of that, they turned to their healthcare professionals for referrals or asked their friends and family for recommendations. Some people even resorted to looking up random doctors in the Yellow Pages (remember those days?). Today, so much has changed. We have the World Wide Web to help us research what medical staff is available near us. We can even look up reviews to see what other patients think of the provider. So, has the Internet actually changed how we choose our doctors?
The answer is yes. Patients are better informed about a lot of aspects of their healthcare because of advancements in technology. Websites and apps have made it super simple to look up symptoms, self-diagnose, or reach out to healthcare professionals for care if we need to. When we do look for new hospitals or doctor’s offices online, we get immediate results with the click of a mouse. Now, you can enter dentist Winnipeg in a Google Search and instantly find a list of reputable dentists in the area. In fact, according to Hitwise, about 68% of consumers head to a search engine first when they are doing research regarding their health.
Once patients locate a doctor or dentist they might want to visit, they have the option of looking up public sites like Healthgrades or RateMDs where patients can rate and review their experiences with a specific physician. More and more people are turning to these sites for guidance – research says that 77% of people use online reviews as one of the first steps in finding a new healthcare professional. These sites can offer great insight into all aspects of a visit, like the doctor’s bedside manner, how helpful the office staff are, and if there are long wait times at appointments. Even comments on Facebook or Twitter can display either glowing praise or negative rants about a specific office. Because some doctor’s offices can be hurt by negative reviews, it’s possible that some offices will work harder to provide a positive patient experience.
Although it’s always a possibility that patients could miss out on a physician that can help them because they’re scared off by a negative experience from someone else, overall, the openness created by the Internet can be a helpful thing. With increased access and more transparency, patients will only benefit from having a breadth of information about their healthcare providers. Additionally, improvements with telemedicine mean that you can even search for doctors that aren’t geographically close to you but that can treat you remotely. In this way, the Internet has opened up healthcare options that were previously closed to some patients.
So, whether you hit up Facebook to ask friends for a dermatologist recommendation or search for reviews of a dentist you’ve heard of, the Internet can definitely help improve the way we choose our healthcare providers.