When you’re sick, do you feel comfortable just calling a random doctor’s number?
In today’s digitalized society, knowing someone’s title isn’t enough to prove he/she is trustworthy.
The internet has changed the way patients view the healthcare industry. Now, many factors, like reviews and social media, can affect a doctor’s or a healthcare business’s reputation online.
What led to this change? Why did patients lose confidence in health experts like doctors?
Keep reading as we dive deep into the top reasons why patients don’t trust their healthcare providers in the age of the internet.
The Truth Is, People Just Don’t Trust Each Other Anymore
Nowadays it seems as though we would rather take matters into our own hands than taking a risk by trusting someone else.
Unfortunately, the same has been true when it comes to putting our trust in organizations and systems.
Times have changed and society has lost confidence in founding institutions like the following:
- Workplaces and business in general
- Healthcare organizations
It’s really no surprise.
Trust is essential when it comes to building healthy relationships, but over the years, misconceptions and false information easily spread around.
This is especially true with the increased use of the internet and social media.
People didn’t just stop believing in these big organizations. There are reasons behind the mistrust that have led people to become skeptics:
We’ve set our trust levels way too low.
Trust can be affected by several factors, such as our own personality, past experiences, values, beliefs, culture, and emotional maturity.
Altogether, it builds on how easy or hard it is for us to trust.
Our expectations haven’t been met.
We rely on these big organizations to bring order and direction into our lives.
By placing this responsibility on their shoulders, we inevitably create expectations.
Unfortunately, when our expectations aren’t met, our trust in these institutions starts to decline.
A negative experience in our past.
Bad experiences leave scars.
According to psychology experts, it’s these negative events in our lives that leave impactful imprints in our minds.
That’s why, when we’ve had bad experiences with these institutions, we begin doubting their credibility and eventually lose trust in them.
The Healthcare Industry Is Also Under More Scrutiny Than Ever
One institution that’s taken a hard hit of mistrust is the healthcare sector itself.
A doctor and a patient’s relationship should be built on strong foundations. After all, we entrust our health and our lives to healthcare professionals.
We call on doctors to give us advice when we are sick and follow their recommendations to keep our body in its best shape.
However, trust in doctors has been declining rapidly over the decades.
In the 1960s, over three-fourths of the American society had great confidence in medical professionals.
Now, only 34% of the American population are confident in the country’s public health system.
5 Reasons Why Patients Don’t Trust Their Healthcare Providers in the Digital Age
Trust is the cornerstone of the doctor-patient relationship. Without it, many people can fall ill, which can put public health and safety in danger.
You’ve probably encountered someone advocating against the use of vaccines or how home remedies are better than medicines.
Unfortunately, the public is now less likely to trust health care providers. Of course, there are some bad players out there in health care who are guilty of insurance fraud or other terrible things.
However, the biggest influence in today’s misinformation can be blamed on digital media.
Fake news and anecdotal stories on health have widely propagated on the internet, swaying people away from the facts.
“There’s no greater sin than telling someone the truth in the 21st century.”David Sanchez
With the library of information available in the palm of our hands nowadays, why aren’t patients trusting the health system and their doctors as much as they did before?
David Sanchez, CEO and Founder of Digitalis Medical, has garnered experience in the healthcare industry as a registered nurse and healthcare marketer.
Here, he shares his insights about how the digital age has changed the way patients trust their doctors.
1. Patients Are Turning to Media More Than Their Doctors
“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”Joseph Goebbels
When you open the TV or scroll through your Facebook, what is the most common health information you’ve seen?
Maybe it’s the new diet craze that’s guaranteed to shed your unwanted weight forever.
Perhaps, you’ve encountered a recipe for a supplement potion that’s “proven” to treat your pains and aches.
When it comes to news about doctors, what kind of stories do you hear about them?
All too often, the public hears more bad news than good news when it comes to what physicians are up to. They report on pill mill doctors or those arrested for fraud or harassment.
Despite the countless success stories and recoveries to health, the media still has the tendency to pick the bad apples and portray medical providers in a bad light.
There’s a general consensus of negative bias in the media
The power of the internet goes beyond just knowing information.
With social media connecting us much easier than ever, patients now have the ability to say what they want and share it with as many people as possible.
This negative bias is present in:
- Social media (think “vaccines cause autism”)
- Video sharing platforms (e.g. Youtubers vlogging about their horrible medical experiences)
- Online forums
- Review sections of online directories like Google My Business, etc.
The internet trolls are real and I think they’ve infected the entire mediaDavid Sanchez
2. Doctors Can’t Spend Much Time Face-to-Face with Patients
Have you ever noticed in a doctor’s office, urgent care, emergency department…actually anywhere you go to see a doctor…
… You see a bunch of staff rushing around, but why do you still have to wait forever to see the doctor?
The truth is, in order to ensure that facilities get paid by insurance companies and avoid lawsuits, nurses and doctors spend more time documenting their care than actually taking care of patients.
These are rules imposed on healthcare professionals. Unfortunately, they also negatively affect the process of patient care.
Patients perceive the lack of face-to-face contact with their doctors as a lack of care as well. They feel as if doctors give more interest in their digital records rather than their well-being.
What they don’t realize is this data collection isn’t something doctors impose on themselves.
It’s higher hospital authorities that require it of doctors, and if they don’t follow protocol, they can get penalized for it.
3. Health Insurance Companies Run the Show
The saying in healthcare is, “If you didn’t document it, it didn’t happen.”
That’s part of the training providers get to make sure they can keep their license, avoid malpractice, and get paid for at least a portion of the care they provide.
Healthcare facilities have to jack up their prices in order to get paid anything, and they’re lucky if they do get paid 20% of the time.
Then insurance companies turn around months or years later and say:
“Hey, we did an audit and realized we accidentally paid you for taking care of our policyholder. You need to pay us back!”
As a result, doctors feel enslaved to a system they can’t control, between documentation requirements and dwindling reimbursement rates.
Most doctors become a physician to help people but aren’t able to spend much time helping them. Instead, they’re more like a tightrope walker wearing a stethoscope.David Sanchez
4. External Pressures on Doctors
In an ideal world, physicians would just rely on their years of clinical training and assessments to know the best treatment plan for their patients.
In reality, that’s not how healthcare works nowadays. So many other factors can force a doctor to opt for alternatives and next-best options.
For one, they may have to do additional testing just to avoid lawsuits from misdiagnoses.
Some have their hands tied when it comes to the medications they can prescribe.
There may also be instances where the hospital is promoting the use of their new equipment.
Patients can also influence a doctor’s decision-making process. With the availability of information on the internet, patients are starting to have their own opinions on how their care process should go.
With all these external factors coming into play, doctors go under extreme pressure just to be able to give the best care for their patients.
5. Some, Not All Doctors, Prefer Profit Over Care
The truth of the matter is, not all doctors are passionate about patient care. There are some outlier physicians that think of healthcare as a money-making system.
With the rise of social media and advertising as the best forms of marketing, some doctors are taking advantage of their medical degrees for profit.
Maybe you’ve heard of doctors promoting weight loss supplements and products (most of which have no proven benefit).
These types of physicians put medical practices in a bad light. Instead of using their degrees to become health experts, they exploit their titles as a marketing ploy in product promotions.
With the rise of epidemics and various diseases in our time, it’s imperative to start finding ways to earn back patients’ trust.
As licensed physicians, you swore an oath to prioritize your patient’s health and wellbeing above all. It’s high time to take a stand against the system that’s leading the public away from evidence-based healthcare.
Fortunately, even on your own, you can speak up and bring credibility back into your practice.
How To Gain Your Patients’ Trust Online
A successful doctor will know how to leverage the digital age in order to gain more patients while building their credibility and reputation online.
As you know, the Internet is flooded with misinformation which can be detrimental to your patients who are trying to self diagnose and self treat.
This is where you come in as an expert health professional to drive them towards the right health information.
By providing credible, reliable, and evidenced-based information, you will gain the trust of your online readers.
They will also be more likely to call you for an appointment.
If you’re just starting a new practice or want to increase your patient base, there are many ways online for you to gain the trust and confidence of new and existing patients.
Here are proven-effective methods to help you increase trust with patients online:
Get yourself online
When searching for a service, we often go to Google to get our answers. Likewise, patients are more inclined to Google the best and nearest doctors in their area.
The only way you can be found online is by creating your own digital platforms.
To help get traction online, you must do these three things first:
- Create a website for your practice
- Create profiles and get active on social media platforms
- Register with doctor review websites.
Search Engine Optimization
It’s not enough that your practice can be found on the internet.
With so many competing doctors with the same specialty as you, there’s bound to be one that’s going to land the top of Google’s results list.
To take your medical website to the top of the first page of Google’s search results, your website and its contents should follow the basic and latest techniques of SEO (or Search Engine Optimization).
Learn more about SEO in healthcare here.
The power of thumbs: online reviews matter
Online reviews are a direct reflection of people’s real experiences.
People put a lot of trust in the unbiased reviews they read on your Google or other doctor-review website listings (eg. Healthgrades).
In fact, according to research, as much as 77% of patients read doctor reviews first before they call a clinic for an appointment.
Patients can enumerate so much information about their care process. Here are just a few to mention:
- How easy it was to set up an appointment
- Customer service
- Provider communication
- Wait times
- Overall condition and cleanliness of the doctor’s office
- Patient follow-up
If you want to gain the trust of new patients, carefully read through your online patient reviews to see how you can improve your practice.
When it comes to negative reviews, it’s important for doctors to monitor and address a patient’s complaints immediately.
Make sure you and your staff are also providing the best service and care, as services that go above and beyond are the ones that usually score a good review online.
Investing in a digital marketing agency
There are many creative techniques to promote your hospital business on the internet. However, it takes the right experience and expertise to market a healthcare business online.
With the various SEO agencies, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed when choosing one that will surely boost your practice.
It’s not enough that they have the metrics to show you an increase in traffic to your website. Cheap SEO can gain you traffic, but it may not result in the patient conversions that you want.
That’s why, when choosing a digital marketing agency for your medical practice, it’s imperative to ask these questions:
- Do you feel that the company genuinely cares about your needs?
- Did all of your questions get answered or were they brushed over?
- Was the cost of the product discussed more than the projected end results?
- Do you feel confident in their customer service?
- Did they offer tools to help you track the success of the SEO campaign?
- Were you assigned a direct line of contact to set up the campaign and to stay connected with throughout the service?
- Are you sure that the results they claim are attainable in the time frame stated?
Embrace The Digital Age and Gain Your Patients’ Trust Back
When it comes to health, trust should be at the absolute core of a patient-doctor relationship.
Although the rise of the internet may have swayed the views of the public towards medical experts, it can still be gained back by leveraging the opportunities in the digital age.
Rather than feeding potential patients with misinformation about their health, you can embrace Google, social media, and doctor-review websites to give them reliable and expert-based information.
Online patient reviews, social media forums, and physician marketing resources make it easier than ever for new patients to make informed decisions about who to choose for their healthcare provider.
If you have a strong online presence, this shift is good news because you can use this to build your credibility and reputation with patients who need your care.
Are you a doctor who’s frustrated about the digital world? Are you a patient that still has growing doubts about medical practitioners?
We’d love to hear your thoughts! Sound off your opinions about trust in the healthcare industry in our comments section below.