How much time did you put into researching your new TV? Or your new laptop? Or new phone?

How about your doctor?

According to the recent Patient Choice study released by Insider Pages and conducted by market research firm Harris Interactive, U.S. adults with a primary care physician spend more time researching the latest electronic gadget or a gift for a friend than they do selecting their primary care physician.

At the same time, the majority of U.S. adults with a primary care physician wish they could find more comprehensive information about their doctors online.

While the online ratings and reviews category has seen explosive growth in recent years across a number of categories such as consumer electronics, healthcare has lagged far behind, and consumers have more or less settled for what they can find out about their doctors from health insurance websites.

The end result is that many consumers don't favor one source of information to evaluate potential doctors outside of their insurance companies' websites.

Compounding this problem is the belief by many of those with a primary care physician that the recently passed Healthcare reform bill will require them to switch doctors.

Between November 10 and November 21, 2010, Insider Pages commissioned Harris Interactive to conduct the telephone study among 2,020 adults aged 18+ of whom 1,490 have a doctor they consider their primary doctor.

The results suggest most adults, especially those under 35, wish they could access specific information about doctors online.

The results also suggest many people base their choice of doctor on how convenient it is to get to his or her office, instead of other important factors like patient ratings, the doctor's malpractice records or expertise.

Detailed findings from the survey include:

Patients Want More Transparency

The study indicates the majority of consumers with a primary care physician are not satisfied with the amount of information they can find online about doctors. They feel like they are making choices and decisions about providers with an imperfect set of information.

  • Two-thirds (67%) of adults wish they could find more comprehensive information about doctors online.
  • Almost three-quarters (73%) of people under 35 agreed they wanted to be able to find more comprehensive information about doctors online.
  • More than half (51%) of adults agree it is hard to find information on a doctor.  
  • About seven in ten (71%) adults wish doctors would share information about their medical background and expertise online.
  • Almost four in five (78%) of those adults aged 18 to 34 said they wish doctors would share more information online.

Healthcare vs. Home Electronics

Consumers enjoy and have become accustomed to researching consumer products online. When the information is available (as it is in abundance in consumer electronics and gifts) they will pore over it before making a decision.

Because finding such data on doctors is much more difficult and rare, Americans have lowered their standards in trying to find as detailed information about doctors.

As such, almost half of adults said they spend more time researching the hottest electronics than they do their doctor and a majority agreed that they rarely research specialists to whom they are referred.

  • Over two-fifths (42%) of adults agree they spent more time researching the latest electronic gadget than their primary care doctor.
  • Half (50%) of adults under age 55 spent more time researching the latest gadget than their doctor.
  • Almost one-half (49%) say they spent more time researching a gift for a family member or friend than researching their primary care doctor.
  • Nearly three in five (59%) adults agree they rarely research a specialist who they were referred to by their primary care doctor. Men (64%) are more likely than women (55%) to agree.

Location, Location, Location

In the absence of easily findable quality metrics on doctors, consumers are selecting doctors in their health plan based primarily on location.

  • Nearly half (47%) of adults with a PCP agree they chose their doctor primarily on location and not information about the physician's expertise, malpractice record or online reviews.  

Pass It On

Beyond factors such as insurance accepted by the doctor and location of the doctor's office, recommendations from family and friends were the next most important deciding factor in choosing a doctor.

The overwhelming majority of U.S. adults with a primary care doctor stated they would recommend their doctor to friends or family. 

  • For one quarter (25%) of adults with a PCP, word of mouth is the most important factor aside from their insurance plan when deciding if a primary care provider was right for them.
  • About nine in ten (91%) adults with a doctor agree -- with 73% strongly agreeing -- they would definitely recommend their primary care doctor to a friend or family member.  

The Changing Face of Healthcare

Once they've found a primary care physician, many adults worry the recently enacted Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) would require them to change their doctor. 

  • Over two-fifths (42%) of adults agree they are worried that they will be required to change their doctor as a result of the new healthcare reform bill.
  •  Adults with a PCP who affiliate themselves with the GOP were significantly more likely (61%) than their Democrat (25%) or Independent (45%) counterparts to agree they worried about being required to change their doctor.