Most patients prefer in-person doctor visits and appointments that are made in the near-term, according to a report out of Zocdoc this week.

In its inaugural report on how empowered patients feel about their healthcare experience, Zocdoc delved into what patients what out of their healthcare provider (HCP) experiences. 

First, the report found that the majority — about 65% — of people who booked appointments in 2023 were women, compared to 35% of men. This includes people who were booking appointments on behalf of others. Millennials were the biggest group booking, with 48% of bookers falling into that generation, followed by 22% of Gen Zers.

The report also found that patients strongly prefer in-person visits to purely virtual ones. 

Contrary to general belief, virtual care visits only made up about 18% of all doctor appointments on Zocdoc in 2023, with the majority of those being mental health visits. Without including mental health, only 8% of doctor appointments booked were virtual.

Nearly all patients who sought care from most specialties — including optometrists, physical therapists, podiatrists, OB-GYNs, cardiologists and dermatologists — wanted in-person appointments. 

However, mental health was the only area where patients booked virtual visits, with 86% of appointments leaning virtual.

Notably, providers who offered both in-person and virtual care received 51% more appointment bookings than HCPs that only offered in-person and HCPs that only offered virtual. 

In short, the report asserted that patients want to have options, even if they prefer to go into a physical office.

Patient preferences extend downstream

Patients also tended to book appointments with HCPs of the same sex, with 65% of female patients making appointments with female doctors, and 59% of men doing the same with male doctors.

When making decisions on who to see, patients tended to opt for providers who were affiliated with a hospital compared to those who weren’t. HCPs linked to a hospital received three times as many appointment bookings compared to providers who weren’t.

In addition, patients are paying close attention to physician reviews and were more likely to pick HCPs with more than 50 reviews, receiving 11 times the number of bookings that providers with less than 10 reviews received.

The Zocdoc report also looked into the top reasons why patients sought care in 2023, with the first being annual physicals, followed by annual pap smears and gynecological exams. 

Illness, dermatology consultations, teeth cleanings and mental health concerns — like anxiety, psychiatry consultations and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) — took up the latter half of the list.

Finally, Zocdoc unveiled what it dubs the “Patient Empowerment Index” for 2023, concluding that patients were moderately empowered this year, giving the index a score of 58.9 (on a scale of -80 to 120).

“There is still much room for improvement within the industry to ensure consumers have better access, comfort and control over their own care,” Zocdoc concluded.

In 2024, Zocdoc predicts that mental health bookings will continue to remain high and increase in the later part of the year, partially linked to the upcoming presidential election cycle. The company also indicated that the number of patients seeking weight loss drugs and semaglutide-related care will also increase.