Survey: Patients say finding PCP info online is difficult

By Molly Merrill
10:08 AM

Patients are finding it hard to research their primary care doctors, according to a new survey, which finds that they're currently often making a choice about a PCP based on location, or what they find on their insurance company's website. 

The Patient Choice study, released by Insider Pages and conducted by Harris Interactive, polled 2,020 adults – 1,490 of which have a doctor they consider to be their primary physician.

The study indicates that patients with a primary care physician are not satisfied with the amount of information they can find online about them. The report feeling like they are making choices and decisions about providers with an imperfect set of information.

  • Two-thirds (67 percent) of adults wish they could find more comprehensive information about doctors online. 
  • Almost three-quarters (73 percent) of people under 35 agreed that they wanted to be able to find more comprehensive information about doctors online.
  • More than half (51 percent) of adults agree it is hard to find information on a doctor. 
  • About seven in 10 (71 percent) adults wish doctors would share information about their medical background and expertise online.
  • Almost four in five (78 percent) of those adults aged 18 to 34 said they wish doctors would share more information online.

The study found that nearly half (47 percent) of adults with a PCP agree they chose their doctor primarily on location and not information about the physician's expertise, malpractice record or online reviews.

Because finding such data on doctors is much more difficult and rare, the study indicates patients have lowered their standards in trying to find as detailed information about doctors. Almost half of adults surveyed said they spend more time researching consumer electronics than they do their doctor, and a majority (about 59 percent) agreed that they rarely research specialists to whom they are referred.

Beyond factors such as insurance accepted by the doctor and the location of his or her office, recommendations from family and friends were the next most important deciding factor in choosing a doctor. The overwhelming majority of U.S. adults with a primary care physician stated they would recommend their doctor to friends or family. 

  • For one quarter (25 percent) of adults with a PCP, word of mouth is the most important factor aside from their insurance plan when deciding if a primary care provider was right for them.
  • About nine in ten (91 percent) adults with a doctor agree —with 73 percent strongly agreeing— they would definitely recommend their primary care doctor to a friend or family member.

The survey also found that 42 percent of adults worry that the recently enacted Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) would require them to change their doctor.