What Do Consumers Want from Specialty Care?

What Do Consumers Want
from Specialty Care?

Know who refers nearly half of your specialty business?

Your patients.

Although primary care physician (PCP) referrals still drive the majority of specialty business, in some specialties, self-referrers comprise up to 47% of patients.

To win their business, you need to understand why these patients choose to self-refer, how they select their physicians, and what keeps them coming back. That’s what we asked nearly 1,300 self-refers about in our latest survey. Here’s what our analysis revealed.


12 insights from the survey

What is the consumer’s path to a specialist?

1. Stop discounting self-referrals
2. Rebels are rare
3. Majority do research—briefly
4. Use of third-party sources remains limited

What are the top drivers of consumer choice?

5. Experience of friends and family is particularly influential for select specialties
6. Affiliation matters, particularly for select specialties
7. Distance is a major consideration
8. Online reviews are on par with quality metrics
9. Cost is not a decision driver

What are the top drivers of consumer loyalty?

10. Most patients would come back
11. Care quality dictates decision to return
12. A-plus service fosters greater loyalty than cost or convenience

About the survey

We first asked 12,610 respondents who had a medical appointment with a specialist in the last 12 months to tell us how they found their specialist. Specifically, did they:

  • Follow a provider referral
  • Receive a provider referral but chose to see another specialist
  • Self-refer

We then looked more closely at 1,284 consumers, a subset of those patients who self-referred or received a referral but chose to see another specialist, to better understand their specialist selection process. We asked how much research they did and which sources they used.

For those respondents who self-referred or chose not to follow a referral and instead saw a different specialist, we examined the most important factors in their choice of specialist.

To learn the top drivers of consumer loyalty, we asked which factors contributed most to their likelihood to return.

We also analyzed how choice and loyalty factors differed across respondent demographics and the 16 represented specialties.


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