How do young adults choose a physician?

October 30, 2013

Despite their reliance on the Internet in other aspects of their lives, young adults still turn to word-of-mouth recommendations to find a physician.

Young adults may be accustomed to going online to find evaluations of everything from pizza to college courses. But when it comes to choosing a physician,  they rely more than any other group on recommendations from family members, friends, and coworkers.

That was one of the findings from a new survey by the American Osteopathic Association (AOA) looking at how Americans choose their healthcare providers. Asked which resources they use to select a physician for themselves, 77% of respondents age 18 to 29 said they use word of mouth, compared with 64.6% of all respondents. Only 16.2% of respondents in the 16 to 29 age group said they rely on physician rating websites such as Vitals.com or Healthgrades.com, compared with 19% of all respondents.

By contrast, 49.6% of those in the 18 to 29 respondent cohort say they use insurance provider directories, nearly the same percentage-48.9%-used by all respondents to the survey. Other resources cited by all survey respondents include other (10.4%), hospital websites (9.4%), consumer review websites (9.1%), and the WebMD.com physician directory. 

“Since it is important people have a positive relationship with their physician, it makes sense that they contact those whom they already have relationships with, like family and friends, to get feedback when selecting a physician,” says Jennifer N. Caudle, DO, an osteopathic family physician from Philadelphia and assistant professor in the department of family medicine at Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine in Stratford, New Jersey.

When it comes to actually selecting a physician, however, the most important consideration cited by all respondents (83.2%) is that the physician is included in the patient’s insurance plan. That is followed by the physician’s proximity to the patient’s home, work, or school (60.5%), bedside manner (60.2%), the physician’s office hours (43.6%), and the physician’s certification (36.8%).

One in three respondents said they have changed their physician in the past 5 years. The most common reason, cited by 34.7% of respondents, was moving. That was followed by “didn’t feel the physician was a good fit” (33.9%), “changed insurance provider” (21.2%), “physician retired or moved (19%), and “other” (11.2%).

The online survey was completed by 1099 respondents nationwide. Results were presented September 30 at OMED 2013, the Osteopathic Medical Conference & Exposition.