April 2015: A Look at Healthcare Provider Locator Tools on the Member Site

This Healthcare Report serves as a catalog of healthcare provider locator tools, on the private member websites in our coverage group. We assess the tools by examining how easy it is to access them upon login to the private website and how they are presented to members. Next, we identified the available search options and analyzed the primary interface of each tool. This portion of the analysis includes any and all help and design elements incorporated into the tool or the page the tool is presented on. Lastly, we examined the results generated by the tools, including the presentation and the content provided with each result.

Our review evaluates the following criteria:

  • Accessibility of healthcare provider locator tool
  • Search interface and functionality of the tool
  • Quality of generated results and additional value added capabilities

In our study, we found that most firms do an admirable job at positioning their locator tools on the member websites. Specifically, 86% of the firms offer access to the tools from a dedicated main navigation menu tab or sub-tab. Six firms offer a quicklink to the tool directly from the private site homepage. The firm that stands out in this report in terms of accessibility, offers access from three primary access points – a main menu sub-tab, homepage quicklink and from a link within the site’s universal footer.

We found that basic search inputs are the most consistent functionality of the locator tools in this report, as all offer the capacity to search by at least ZIP Code/City/State, provider’s name and a specialty. Also, every firm but one defaults the search to incorporate the member’s specific plan; however, only three firms also allow members to change the medical plan/network. We also found that more specific search inputs such as distance radius, procedure, condition and medical facility are peppered throughout several of the locator tools, though no one firm offers them all.

We found slight variation with regards to search results, as all firms returned at least the most crucial details including name of provider, distance from ZIP code, provider’s address, phone number, provider’s specialties and a link to the provider profile page. In contrast, we notice significant room for improvement on value-added features that set many of the firms apart and help improve the overall user experience. For example, help icons that assist in explaining the tool’s functionalities appear on 43% of search screens and on 71% of results page interfaces. One firm offers consumer ratings within their results details, and another a cost efficiency rating. We also assess other highly noteworthy capabilities found on results interfaces like those that allow members to create a PDF directory of providers (86%) and tools that offer directions to the facility or office within their map view (71%).

Additional key findings include:

  • 57% of firms provide pre-defined search options.
  • Four firms indicate whether a provider is currently accepting new patients within the results.
  • Only one firm provides both in-network and out-of-network results.
  • One firm indicates whether a provider accepts online visits.
  • 71% of firms allow members to create a side-by-side provider comparison chart.