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Finding a Physician: How Consumers Shop for Doctors Online

Learn the common patterns that consumers follow when they "shop" for providers online.

One reason consumers opt for online shopping is the ease with which they can find, filter, and pinpoint the products and services they want from a near infinite pool of offerings. So it should come as no surprise that when shopping for physicians, patients employ many of the same tactics they use when engaged in other online shopping activities.

For instance, when shopping for a physician, consumers use your physician directory’s search capabilities to practice the same winnowing behavior to help them identify and choose the best physician for their needs. Consumers may filter for potential physicians who:

  • Treat their specific conditions.
  • Specialize in certain areas of care.
  • Speak their native language.
  • Practice in a location near their homes.

Because this filtering behavior is so prevalent among consumers, it’s important that your online provider directory supports it. It’s also why we’ve designed VitalSite’s Provider Directory to support this type of behavior. When visitors look for physicians on a VitalSite-powered website, they have the ability to search, sort, and filter providers in a way that quickly surfaces physicians relevant to them from all the providers in an organization.

Let’s walk through an example of how this works using Abington Health’s website. The visitor behavior we describe in this example is informed by data from across many healthcare websites.

In this first image, we see that the website visitor has made it to the Find a Physician page (1). The visitor conducted an empty search without filters (2) in order to list all physicians at the organization. We can see that there 1092 potential physicians to choose from (3):

The First Three Steps of Physician-Seeking Behavior

That’s too many to make sense of without some sort of refinement. And so the visitor engages in the first of a series of search refinements that continually narrow the pool of potential physicians.

In this first search refinement, the site visitor has specified the Obstetrics & Gynecology specialty filter (4) that focuses the number of potential physicians to 73 (5):

Steps 4 and 5 of Physician-Seeking Behavior

The next refinement is to filter physicians by gender (6). And this establishes a tighter focus still, with 43 potential physicians (7):

Steps 6 and 7 of Physician-Seeking Behavior

And the last step is to filter physicians by city (8). Note how with a few clicks, the visitor is easily able to focus in on three potential physicians (9) from an initial pool of over a thousand:

Steps 8 and 9 of Physician-Seeking Behavior

At this point, there’s a manageable number of likely candidates to work with, and visitors typically begin reviewing their profiles to determine which provider to select.

Though some of the discreet steps represented above may be consolidated, and the actual filters used can vary from one organization to the next, the pattern of behavior is one we see over and over again as visitors look for physicians. That’s why VitalSite’s Provider Directory is intentionally designed to help users quickly hone in on the best physicians for their needs.

If you’re not yet using VitalSite to power your hospital website, or you’re curious to know if you could be doing more to visitors as they search for physicians, contact us.

Finding a Physician: How Consumers Shop for Doctors Online