Abstract: Primary Care Providers’ Online Biographies: Can we Get the Information we Need from them to Make an Informed Choice?

◆ Evan K. Perrault, Purdue University
◆ Jessie A. Barton, Purdue University
◆ Prince Adu Gyamfi, Purdue University

Selecting a new primary care provider is not always the easiest task. Best practice recommendations advocate for patients to actually visit providers in-person prior to making their selections to determine whether patients would feel comfortable with them (BCBS.com, 2019). But, who has time for this? Therefore, one of the most popular places patients seek information about future providers is via their online biographies on their healthcare systems’ websites (Perrault & Hildenbrand, 2018). While biographies are under healthcare systems’ complete control, prior research has found these biographies tend to not have much information that patients find useful in making their selections (e.g., philosophies of care; Perrault & Smreker, 2013). However, since this prior research was conducted, there has been a surge in the numbers of third-party ratings websites (e.g., ZocDoc, Healthgrades) that provide patient reviews and testimonials – which are sometimes of a dubious veracity (Fleischer et al., 2018; Taylor, 2018; Wang, 2017). Therefore, the primary purpose of the current study is to determine if healthcare system-produced biographies have improved within the past decade – and are offering more information to help patients make informed decisions.

More than 5,000 primary care providers’ online biographies will be coded from over 600 healthcare systems in the U.S. – as identified by the AHRQ’s Compendium of U.S. Health Systems (AHRQ, 2019). More than 40 different pieces of information will be coded within the biographies (e.g, photo available, philosophy of care, languages spoken, patient reviews) by the time of the conference. Biographies were selected from each healthcare system by going to the system’s “find a doctor” portal, and selecting the first ten primary care providers listed (e.g., general medicine, family medicine, internal medicine). Two trained coders are currently coding the biographies for completion in late March, 2020. To the best of our knowledge, this will be the most comprehensive analysis of providers’ online biographies to-date – essentially completing a census of most of the nation’s healthcare systems’ online providers’ biographical databases. Findings will hopefully reveal where healthcare systems can continue to improve the type of information they provide to their prospective patients, to help them make the most informed selection of their future healthcare providers.