I’m Pregnant! My Experience Choosing a Doctor Online

It’s interesting to be on the other side of healthcare marketing—as the prospective patient, shopping for a doctor. 5 positive pregnancy tests

I had a sneaking suspicion, so I took a pregnancy test.  Well, I took 5 actually. They were all positive. So, I started my hunt to choose an OB.

On principle, I refused to consider doctors without a web presence.

It pretty much shows that:

  1. They don’t want to be found
  2. They only want direct referrals
  3. They’re okay with letting their unhappiest patients speak on their behalf (because that’s what happens when doctors aren’t proactive about their online reputations)

I went to two trusted sources: My personal network and the internet

For my counterparts in healthcare marketing, here is a very candid look at the steps I took in choosing a doctor online and why I chose the obstetrics practice I did.

1_yellow_circleI pulled up three websites:

Find_a_Doctor_page_websites

Why these two hospitals?

Both are down the street from my house. I don’t want to risk sitting in Chicago traffic while I’m in labor.

I’ve heard through the grapevine that both have spiffy new maternity wards with huge rooms, private bathrooms and flat screen TVs. I don’t know if I’ll care about any of that when I’m pushing, but it shows a dedication to patient care and comfort.

2_yellow_circleI made two phone calls:

  • I left a voicemail for Sharon. Sharon goes to my church. She’s also a labor and delivery nurse at Hospital A.

  • I called Hospital A’s physician referral line while I was on the “Find a Doctor” page. But the info on the website was better. The nice lady did throw out some names of physicians to check out. I jotted the names down and ended the call. But before I hung up, she offered to sign me up for a tour of the new maternity ward. Sure, why not. I didn’t call Hospital B’s referral line, because…

I didn’t see the phone number on their site.

3_yellow_circleI eliminated Hospital B in 10 minutes.

Why hospital A won

4_yellow_circle

Next, I just needed to go through Hospital A’s physician videos to choose an OB who met my criteria:

  • had office location(s) close to my house (yes, there were maps on every doctor’s bio)
  • was part of my insurance network (that was listed, too. And not generically like Aetna or United Healthcare. They listed the specific plans under each major insurance carrier so I could make sure my type of insurance was included)
  • was taking new patients (unfortunately, that was not on the site so I’d have to call)
  • could see me that week (I didn’t care that it was a holiday week. I might be pregnant!)
  • had decent reviews on yelp (I know. I’ll explain more below)
  • featured a video showing competence and a human side

5_yellow_circleOnly a few doctors had videos.

Physician videos help patients choose the right doctorFortunately, I could exclude everyone that didn’t from the search. Done. That narrowed the pool to about 5 docs, plus the two who were mentioned by the nice physician referral lady. Even though one didn’t have a video—or even a picture—I thought I’d check her out anyway.

I watched all the videos because they were no longer than 2 minutes each, then I checked my insurance company’s website to make sure they were in-network.

6_yellow_circleNext I Googled all the docs.

Yelp reviewsTheir Yelp reviews popped up first. Yeah, yeah: Yelp is inaccurate at best and full of rabid psychos who only want to vent at worst. I know that. So I don’t give the reviews too much weight. (Online physician reviews was a hot topic at last years Healthcare Internet Conference.)

Surprisingly, the physician referral lady’s doctor had such bad Yelp reviews I wondered how she keeps a job—inaccurate diagnoses, offensive comments, horrible wait times. Maybe if she had a video I would have gotten a different impression of her, but she didn’t. On to the next…

7_yellow_circleThe next doctor went to University of Chicago. Okay, I’m impressed. Nice video, too.

But when I called his office, there were so many basic courtesy violations that I gave up:

  • Really? You need my insurance information just to tell me if he’s taking new patients
  • Fax something??? I don’t even know where to find a fax machine. Nor can I read hieroglyphics or hunt with a spear. You people don’t email?
  • Really? You’re putting me on hold…again.
  • Oh, his next appointment is in two weeks. Wish I knew that 27 minutes ago. No thank you. Click.

8_yellow_circleI moved on to the last two options:

  • One was not taking new patients
  • The other also had horrible Yelp reviews. Plus, she didn’t have an open slot for two weeks.

I was back at square one.

9_yellow_circleThen, Sharon called back. Thank God. 6 hour time clock

After she calmed down about my exciting news, she put me out of my misery: “Dr. Elizabeth Nye. She has a really nice website. You can look it up by her name. If you want a midwife, make an appointment with Deb. She’s really good, but call Kristen or Jade to ask how their experiences were. She was their midwife, too.” Kristen and Jade are also new moms who go to my church.

10_yellow_circleI checked out Nye Partners on Yelp.

The reviews were mixed, leaning toward good. Her website had 30-second videos of all the docs in the practice and the midwives, including Deb. When I called, I was never put on hold. I got an appointment for the end of the week with Deb.

And—get this—I got to talk with the billing person. Usually, the billing person is some Wizard-of-Oz type who only comes out when stuff’s messed up. But I got to verify that my insurance covered everything up front. When does that ever happen! And she has a video on the site, too.

My process of choosing a doctor was over.

My mother went with my husband and I to that first appointment. She was so impressed that she made an appointment for her next pap smear.

It should NOT be this hard to find a doctor, especially for a cash cow like obstetrics services. Thank God for Sharon.

Healthcare marketers take note: Your healthcare organization’s web presence should serve as a virtual Sharon for every prospective patient.