Pediatric Healthcare Decisions

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Parental Journey-Choosing a Pediatrician

While there are plenty of articles in the public domain that discuss how a parent should choose a pediatrician, statistics on how expectant and actual parents in the United States choose a general pediatrician are limited. The few statistics that are publicly available indicate that: many parents prioritize recommendations from family and friends; most parents are aware of physician-rating sites; younger parents are more trusting of online reviews and apps; health insurance, office location, and doctor’s experience are important considerations; and expectant parents begin their pediatrician search at different times.

Many Parents Prioritize Recommendations from Family and Friends

  • Whether a pediatrician is recommended by a family member or a friend is the top consideration of parents when choosing a pediatrician.
  • Fatherly, a media brand in New York that targets dads, polled 1,000 dads in the United States in 2019 and found that the top considerations of parents when choosing a pediatrician or family doctor are as follows: recommendation from family member of friend (26.33%), location (18.05%), information from insurance app or company website (16.47%), referral from another physician (15.40%), online reviews (14.84%), and online resources or apps (8.90%).
  • Slightly more than half of the survey respondents say that they have, in one way or another, used recommendations from family or friends.

Most Parents are Aware of Physician-Rating Sites

  • Based on a study published in the journal Pediatrics, whose findings were based on a poll of 3,563 parents in the United States, almost 75% of parents then were aware of physician rating websites. Given that the study was published in 2014, it is possible that the percentage is higher now.
  • The poll revealed that parents are more likely to choose a family- or friend-recommended pediatrician if said pediatrician has high ratings online. It also showed that parents are less likely to choose a family- or friend-recommended pediatrician if said pediatrician has low ratings online.
  • According to an old National Poll on Children’s Health, one that was conducted in 2013 by the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Michigan, almost a third of parents who have sought online doctors’ ratings have avoided a doctor because of bad ratings.
  • Forty-three percent of parents who have not actively looked for online ratings report that they do not trust these ratings. The hesitation stems from concerns that the ratings may be fake, there may not be enough ratings, and the ratings may have been influenced by the doctor.

Younger Parents are More Trusting of Online Reviews, Resources, and Apps

  • Compared to older parents, younger parents are more trusting of online reviews, resources, and apps.
  • Based on the aforementioned 2019 survey of dads, 46.7% of parents have, in one way or another, considered online reviews, resources, and apps in their pediatrician selection process. Of these parents, 41.62% were 25 to 34 years old, while 28.90% were 35 to 44 years old.
  • Younger parents appear to place more trust in online reviews, resources, and apps and the ability of these information sources to provide reliable recommendations.
  • This finding is no different from the results of a 2013 survey that found that younger parents are more inclined than older parents to perceive online ratings as very important. Based on this survey, 44% of parents under 30 versus 21% of parents over 29 believe online ratings are very important.
  • Compared to 19% of fathers, 30% of mothers believe online ratings are very important.

Health Insurance, Office Location, and Doctor’s Experience are Important Factors

  • Based on the aforementioned old National Poll on Children’s Health, health insurance, office location, and years of experience are the factors that parents find the most important when selecting their child’s doctor.
  • For 92% of parents, it is very important that their health insurance will be accepted by the pediatrician.
  • For 65% of parents, it is very important that the pediatrician has a convenient office location.
  • For 52% of parents, it is very important that the pediatrician has plenty of experience in pediatrics.
  • Parents also find the following factors very important: word of mouth (50%), referral from another physician (40%), and online ratings (25%).

Expectant Parents Begin Their Pediatrician Search at Different Times

  • An article written in 2015 by Dr. Alison Mitzner, a pediatrician and a mom, shows that some expectant parents begin looking for a pediatrician soon after learning about their pregnancy, while some expectant parents postpone the search until the last trimester. From the perspective of Dr. Mitzner who is also a mom, expectant parents should start their search in the fourth or fifth month of pregnancy.
  • From the perspective of Dr. Kevin Sheahan, a pediatrician and a father to three children, the best time for expectant parents to start looking for a pediatrician is around three months before the baby is due. This is according to an article that was published in 2019.
  • Both Dr. Mitzner and Dr. Sheahan are parents based in the United States.

Research Strategy

We typically use sources that were published in the past two years. Most of the relevant surveys and statistics were published more than two years ago, however, so we were compelled to expand our research to include older sources. It is not clear if the findings in these older sources are still true today, but there are a few similarities between the older and newer sources that suggest the findings may still be relevant at present. A 2013 survey and a 2019 survey, for example, both show that younger parents are more trusting of online reviews.
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Parental Journey-Choosing a Pediatric Specialist

Data-backed information concerning the parental journey of choosing a pediatric specialist could not be found. However, a survey revealed that 22.9% of 341 families experienced incomplete referrals to pediatric specialists. Also, while 89% of 1264 pediatricians stated that managed care plans did not affect referrals to specialists, 22% stated that such plans did sometimes impede referrals and 10% stated that such plans often impeded referrals.

Parental Experience Data

  • For a 2013 article written in The Journal of Pediatrics, the authors surveyed 341 families about barriers to specialty care for their children. 22.9% of the families surveyed stated that they dealt with incomplete referrals to pediatric specialists.

Pediatric Specialist Referral Data

  • An American Academy of Pediatrics survey of 1264 pediatricians indicated that 89% of "pediatricians with patients in managed care plans said they referred their managed care patients" to pediatric specialists just as frequently as they referred their non-managed care patients.
  • 22% of those pediatricians stated that their patients' managed care plan sometimes prevented referrals to pediatric specialists and 10% stated that such a prevention occurred often.

Research Strategy

We used various medical journal sites and databases to find evidence-based information concerning the parental journey of choosing a pediatric specialist. We could not find concrete survey data about who parents consulted during the process. But we did find information about how incomplete referrals affected families seeking specialty care and how managed care plans affected referrals to specialists.
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Parental Journey-Hospital for Children

Some insights into the choosing of hospitals by parents for their children include the major influence of social media and word of mouth from friends and family, online reviews, and other factors including convenience of location, accepting certain insurance, and doctor experience. Some other relevant findings included are increases in patient counts at reputable and recognized children hospitals, and other statistics about how parents choose doctors in general, whether in a hospital setting or medical practice.

Insights of Parents Choosing Hospitals for Children

Online Influence

  • A study from Demi & Cooper Advertising and DC Interactive Group reports that 41% of people state that social media affects their choice of a specific doctor, hospital, or medical facility. Social media is a powerful influence in today's world, making it an important vehicle for an organization in the healthcare industry such as hospitals to utilize in attracting and retaining patients.
  • Healthcare Finance News states from a survey that 40% of people said that information on social media affected how they dealt with a chronic condition, including hospital or not, their overall view of diet and exercise, and their selecting of a physician. People use social networks to discuss almost every aspect of their life, including experiences with hospitals, doctors and medical practices.
  • Traffic to hospital websites from YouTube increased 119% according to this source from 2018 citing Google's Think Insights.


  • Although from an older source in 2013, this C.S. Mott Children's Hospital report states that nearly 30% of parents used online doctor ratings whether in private practice or in hospital settings, for themselves or a family member within the past year. According to this same survey two-thirds of parents surveyed stated they avoided or chose a doctor based on ratings.
  • 25% of parents in another survey from the same hospital state that doctor reviews were important factor to them in their decision process.
  • Although not for parents but patients in general, this authoritative survey states that 48% of patients would choose out-of-network providers if they had better reviews.

Other Factors

  • Although this survey is for parents choosing doctors in general, whether in hospitals, or medical practices, it states that 92% choose based on their ability to accept certain health insurance.
  • This same survey from C.S. Mott's Children's Hospital states that office location convenience is a deciding factor for 65% of parents.
  • Doctors years of experience was the deciding factor for 52% of parents, and referral from another doctor accounted for 40% of parent's decisions.

Other Relevant Findings

  • Americans in general choose a new doctor or hospital based on word of mouth according to an older but still authoritative study by the Center for Studying Health System Change. 50% of those surveyed made decisions based on input from family and friends. Almost 20% use friends and family for specialist recommendations.
  • 60% of users trust the social media posts and activity by doctors over other sources.
  • 49% of those surveyed expect to hear back from their doctor within a few hours when requesting an appointment or follow-up discussion via social media. This reveals how the ways in which book appointments and handle hospital visits and how we choose them in the first place, will continue to be disrupted by the use of social media.
  • Although hard data could not be found on the amount such as the Leapfrog Group's and U.S. News and World Report's hospital awards and rankings have on parent's selection process, hospitals such as Wolfson Children's Hospital in Florida who rank high in both continue to see some of the highest numbers of children patients.

Research Strategy

Through searching industry journals, hospital reviews, and authority ranking sites, not much hard data could be uncovered on the decision-making process of parents when choosing a hospital for their children, and what could be found is from older yet authoritative surveys. Any data that could be gleaned is here presented, along with other significant and relevant findings on how parents choose doctors in general for their children, and how all patients in the U.S. choose hospitals.

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Pediatric Marketing Best Practices

Creating an online profile/website, leveraging social media, circulating email newsletters and enhancing the patient experience are the most referenced best practices for marketing a pediatric practice that is accepting new patients.

Online Profile/Website

  • The creation of an online profile and/or website was identified as an advertising best practice for pediatric offices given that the tactic is widely recommended by industry experts (e.g., Cardinal Digital Marketing, Pediatric EHR Solutions, Pediatric Buzz, Website4MD) as a strategy to attract new patients.
  • According to Cardinal Digital Marketing, there are over 301,000 monthly and more than 3.6 million annual Google searches for a Pediatrician in the US.
  • Additionally, Cardinal Digital Marketing asserts that a patient's first impression of a pediatric practice is "often based on your website."
  • Not only is creating a curated online website or online profile therefore essential to establishing a practice's reputation with prospective patients, but it is also critical to building basic awareness.
  • As a first step, Pediatric Buzz and Website4MD recommend setting up a business profile for pediatric offices through online business listings such as Facebook, Google My Business, Yelp, Bing Place and Yahoo! Local.
  • Next, Pediatric EHR Solutions and Cardinal Digital Marketing recommend creating a "captivating, yet simple" website, as well as investing in Search Engine Optimization (SEO), to further increase a pediatric practice's visibility among new patients.
  • For example, MedPost Urgent Care and its pediatrics practice increased brand conversions by 21% and decreased its cost per new patient acquisition by 17% through the use of an online website combined with SEO and other paid search techniques.
  • Additionally, Care Spot Express Healthcare and its pediatrics practice obtained 173,880 digital leads in nine months and experienced a 100% increase in organic traffic through its online web presence, SEO and other paid search tactics.

Social Media

  • In parallel with creating an online profile or website, social media marketing is another best practice for pediatric offices looking to expand their patient base, according to Cardinal Digital Marketing, Pediatric EHR Solutions, Social Pediatrics Marketing and Website4MD.
  • Notably, according to Social Pediatrics Marketing, 70% of younger generations (e.g., Gen-Xers) are more likely to purchase from brands that they follow on social media, while 21% of Americans overall are more likely to buy from a brand they can engage with on social.
  • As such, Website4MD highlights the fact that social media accounts are a "powerful way" for pediatric offices to "reach potential patients."
  • Website4MD and Pediatric EHR Solutions add that this form of advertising can be low cost, and recommend posting in a "timely, frequent and relevant" fashion to "keep you in the minds" of potential and current patients.
  • Relevant content could include posts about office events, videos about offered services or seasonal health tips.
  • Additionally, Cardinal Digital Marketing points out that the reach of an account can be extended through paid social media advertising.
  • However, Social Pediatrics Marketing suggests being judicious with investing time in only those social media accounts that are the best performing (e.g., most followers, most engaged audience), rather than dividing an office's energy and attention across a multitude of social media platforms.
  • Meanwhile, examples of pediatric practices that are using this tactic can be found through hashtags such as #pediatrics, and include practitioners such as Dr. Suanne Kowal on Twitter.

Email Newsletters

Enhancing the Patient Experience

  • Finally, enhancing the patient experience was also identified as a best practice for pediatric advertising, given that it is recommended by industry experts (e.g., Social Pediatrics Marketing, Patient Approved, Website4MD) as a basic but still highly valuable tool for retaining and attracting new patients.
  • Notably, Patient Approved asserts that the "most straightforward" approach to building a pediatric practice begins with addressing the patient experience.
  • This is because when patients are satisfied with service, they are more likely to tell their friends and family and generate new practice referrals.
  • Overall, Website4MD suggests that such patient referrals and word-of-mouth advertising are the "strongest types of marketing" for any pediatric practice, and lead to the "highest quality" new patients.
  • One strategy for enhancing this patient experience, according to Patient Approved, is working with a third party or consultant to identify the basic ways in which a practice's operations can be better aligned with patient needs and expectations.
  • Social Pediatrics Marketing and Website4MD also suggest supporting this strategy by launching a referral program, that includes rewards and incentives such as gift cards, discounts off future services or other "fun freebies."
  • However, Website4MD cautions that offices should also identify any applicable state laws or provider ethics that may influence the incentives offered for referring patients.
  • Meanwhile, the pediatric programs at Yale Medicine, Connecticut Children's and Rush University Children's Hospital are among the many practices that actively advertise their referral programs.