As we are on the verge of moving over to an online appointment booking system and extending the use of texting to patients in our practice, we recently undertook a survey of our patients. Over the last week, patients in our practice have been patiently completing questionnaires regarding their use of mobile phones, texting and internet usage. Thanks to all of those who took the time to do the survey.
These results apply to a special and limited section of the population and may not be applicable outside of the setting of a private rheumatology outpatient clinic and should be interpreted in this light.
We surveyed all patients presenting to the outpatient clinic of two rheumatologists (Dr. Adrian Gibbs and Dr. Ronan Kavanagh) over a one week period. 124 patients completed the survey.
The patients surveyed are that bit older than the general population (Median 57 yrs vs 34.8% nationally), more likely to be female (2/3 are women vs 50% in the general population) a bit more affluent than average (there is some data to suggest that internet usage is higher in those with higher incomes).
Even allowing for the fact that our patient population is higher than that in the general population, the results of this survey show that mobile phone, texting and internet usage is high amongst patients attending our clinic.
Here’s a summary of the results.
96% of our patients have a mobile phone
84% are able to send and receive text messages
72% of our patients have internet access
70% of our patients who do not have internet access indicated that they a family member who accessed it on their behalf
41% of our patients are on Facebook and 18% on Linkedin and only 5.3% have Twitter accounts
83% of our patients send or receive emails daily or a few times a week
79% have researched a product or service online
83% have looked online for information about a specific disease
70% have looked online for information about medical treatment or procedure.
59% have looked online for information regarding health insurance
56% of those with a Facebook account post updates daily or a few times a week and 44% post rarely of never post.
None of our patients have ever posted an online review of a doctor and only 2.5% have posted a review of a hospital online.
The majority of our patients have a mobile phone. Whereas 84% of patients indicated that they are able to receive AND send messages, it is possible that had we asked the question in two parts, there would have been greater percentage of patients who knew how to receive / read text messages.
The internet usage in our patients is very similar to that in the general population. 72% of our patients use the internet and 69% of Irish households have internet access. Only 41% of patients who use the internet indicated that they have a Facebook account compared with the 69% of Irish internet users (or 45.3% of the Irish population). This probably reflects the older average age of our patients. Also of those who have a Facebook account 25% rarely post and 20% never post messages (figures are similar for Linkedin users with 51% posting daily or a few times a week).
Many of our patients have researched a product or service online and most have looked online for information about a specific disease,treatment or procedure but very few patients have looked at doctor or hospital ratings websites and none of them have rated their doctor in an online ratings site. Irish internet users, it would seem, are internet ‘Lurkers’ and like to watch rather than post updates or comments.
Overall, the results of this survey suggest a high proportion of our patients will be in a position to avail of an online booking system when put in place. Whereas we have had a text reminder service for all outpatient appointments for the last few years, until now we did not know what percentage of our patients might be able to avail of it. We are now going to extend this to annual recall appointments and where possible send dual reminders by text and email.