2020 Foresight: 4 Trends that Are Redefining How Patients Find and Choose their Doctors

It’s not as far off as you think. In less than 5 years, the calendar will hit the year 2020, a mind-boggling bit of information for those of us who’ve been around the block a few times. In fact, if the dizzying rate of change over the last several years is any indication, there’s a good chance it’ll be here before you know it.

In some ways, it already it is. When it comes to reaching today’s consumer, for example, the last few years have completely upended the rules of marketing. At the same time, the rapid evolution of technology all but ensures that the trend will only accelerate. And, as the recent “Customer 2020” report from Accenture suggests, understanding how the changes in technology influence consumer behavior today will be key to engaging those consumers in the years ahead. If you want to future-proof your practice, here are four traits that define the aesthetic consumer we’ll call Patient 2020:

Patient 2020 uses more digital channels than ever: Five years ago, 78% of consumers used at least one online channel when seeking a product or service. Today, 88% do — and four in 10 want even more digital interactions than what companies are providing.

Patient 2020 looks for more options — and more companies to provide them: Two-thirds of consumers say the number of companies or brands they consider for purchase has increased significantly compared with 10 years ago.

Patient 2020 does greater “due diligence” before buying: Compared with 10 years ago, seven in 10 agreed that they make much more informed decisions about providers. Equally important, they don’t limit their efforts to first-time purchases. Even after making a decision, four in 10 consumers find themselves evaluating or considering other providers for subsequent purchases.

Patient 2020 listens more to what others have to say: This is not your grandmother’s word of mouth. Compared with 10 years ago, just over one-half of consumers say they rely much more on other people’s experiences or reviews to inform their purchase decisions.

Clearly, today’s aesthetic consumers are already embracing the above trends. They turn to multiple online resources to conduct their research; they do extensive “due diligence” (often researching for a year or more), and they consider multiple providers along the way. And if the 7 million monthly visits to Realself are any indication, many won’t even consider patronizing a doctor without considering what other patients have to say.

The challenge, of course, is turning the above insights into action, which can only be accomplished by embracing rather than eschewing the changes that accompany them. As the folks at Accenture suggest, businesses that understand how today’s consumers behave and adapt how and where they communicate with them will be the ones that will still be around in 2020:

Rethinking the business in this way could enable companies to reverse the trends they’ve been experiencing in the past decade: continually falling short of consumer expectations, losing customers to other providers and missing out on significant revenue growth opportunities. Driven by a deep understanding of what today’s nonstop customers truly want and which customer-experience initiatives really create value, providers will be much better positioned to keep more of their own customers while competing more effectively for those who are looking for a better choice.

About Rob Lovitt

Rob Lovitt is a longtime writer and editor who believes every good business has a great story to tell. He has written for dozens of magazines and websites, including NBCnews.com, Expedia.com and the inflight magazines of Alaska, Horizon and Frontier airlines.

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