Healthcare delivery is seeing a continuation of a trend that kicked into gear a few years ago.  Cathy’s recent feature in the Greater Knoxville Business Journal unveils how Americans are turning to digital healthcare for medical advice.

Digital channels are overtaking not only traditional healthcare marketing channels, but also patient communication at all levels of the delivery system – with physicians, hospitals, pharmacies and wellness options.

A recent Pew Research study found that healthcare consumers are no longer content to blindly accept what a doctor tells them. They do in-depth homework before visiting a physician or hospital, and they research their conditions and their treatment options following the visit as well. They view their care as a collaboration between themselves and their doctors and are willing to accept primary responsibility for their health and for the decisions that affect it. They are therefore becoming increasingly dependent upon digital channels to stay smart when it comes to their own healthcare and that of their loved ones.

Here are some compelling statistics:

• One in three adults go online to figure out a medical condition (this is commonly their starting point).
• 72% of healthcare consumers looked online for health information within the last year.
• 47% searched for information about specific doctors and other health professionals.
• 66% of Gen Xer’s are open to virtual care as an alternative to in-person office visits.
• 76% of Millennials value online reviews of a doctor from other patients.
• 45% of patients have viewed provider ratings and reviews online, with 31% selecting a doctor based on positive reviews and 32% avoiding a doctor with a negative review.
• 70% of Millennials would choose a physician who offers an app for appointments, bill-paying and viewing health data over a doctor who does not.

According to a recent article in Modern Healthcare, consumers are increasingly turning to Yelp and other review sites to help them shop for quality healthcare, especially in this age of high co-pays and deductibles. Additionally, the Manhattan Institute found that hospitals with high Yelp ratings were more likely to have lower rates of preventable readmissions.

Some health systems are proactively embracing this brave new world. For instance, Advocate HealthCare in Chicago published patient star ratings on physician profiles directly on their website. If negative reviews become a pattern, specific issues are then addressed.

The reality is that few hospitals and health systems have highly sophisticated digital offerings, and many lack even basic functionalities that consumers desire, such as online consumer health information and appointment scheduling and payment.

Digital interaction is rapidly becoming inherent in every element of a health care provider’s value proposition: quality, price, access, experience and breadth of service. High-quality digital content and convenient digital access is becoming an increasingly important factor in every aspect of the decision process for today’s healthcare consumer.