Click Challenge

Looking for a doctor? You can choose one on the web

What influences the choice of the private clinic to contact? Our experts answered these and more questions in our brand new Click Challenge.

While for some time now, the public health service has been showing serious shortcomings, the most obvious one is excessive waiting times: according to the data of the Observatory on waiting times and costs of health services in the Regional Health Systems[1], promoted by Funzione Pubblica CGIL (Public Function) and Fondazione Luoghi Comuni and compiled by Crea, it seems that a patient can take up to 112 days to receive certain health services: two months of waiting, on average, for a medical examination through the National Service, in comparison with only one week in the private sector.

But what leads users to choose one private centre over another? And how can you improve the reputation of your centre, so that the user considers it to be the only choice?

We have conducted a research into the leading Italian private clinics to find out the answer.

Our experts mapped and compared the customer journey of 300 users to determine: what leads people to request an appointment with a specialist? How do people select a shortlist of private clinics to choose from? What is the online booking experience like? What is the cancellation process like (online and offline)?

All this on the website of 7 Italian private clinics: Auxologico, GVM, Humanitas, Multimedica, San Donato, Servisan, and Synlab.


Research method and results: patients opt for the web

Approximately 300 users – members of our community which gathers together users and testers from all over the world – were involved in this research. To obtain accurate results, different methodologies were used, chosen according to the user's evaluation phase. Initially, they were asked to fill in an exploratory survey; then, they were asked to perform actions on the websites of the seven private clinics in order to assess the usability of the website during the booking process, evaluating some parameters such as the clarity of the information, the perceived sense of security, the level of satisfaction and the likelihood of recommendation to friends and relatives. Prospective patients were also asked to evaluate the cancellation process, both by phone and online, which is another factor that generally leads users to stop contacting the website if the experience did not meet their needs.

Step 1: Why are you looking for an appointment with a specialist? It is often a case of self-diagnosis

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The need to book a medical appointment depends on several factors. We might expect the patient's research to be done on the advice or prescription of the general practitioner, but instead, it is often a self-diagnosis that leads to booking an appointment with a specialist for a simple health check. In fact, only 12% book exclusively because they have been instructed or advised to do so by their doctor, as well as those who book exclusively on the basis of self-diagnosis. 75% of the respondents are "moderate", that is, depending on the specific situation, they turn to the general practitioner or proceed independently. In addition to the general practitioner, medical and wellness blogs and websites are a popular source of reference.

Step 2. How do you select one or more private clinics to rely on? The online experience trumps proximity to home

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This is a pre-experiential process, i.e. before the actual medical examination: the analysis carried out on people who are still in the selection phase yields some interesting data. 11% always rely on the same centre, and 30% already have a defined shortlist of previously selected private clinics, after an orientation process that has led them to rely on a restricted selection. The significant figure is that 59% of users are agnostic; that is, they go and inform themselves (via the Internet, advice or GP) before proceeding with a booking). This represents the quota available to new or different alternatives.

Among the factors for choosing a shortlist of private clinics, the absence of the proximity of the private clinic to the home or workplace is surprising. The podium is instead dominated by previous experience, availability of dates and user experience on the website. Therefore, the user's ease of finding information and making appointments quickly are selection factors that possess a greater weight than physical proximity.

"We consider this a significant finding in the research – explains Benedetto Lamacchia, CX Consultant at UNGUESS – because it tells us how important it is to have a very simple, user-centred onboarding process that involves the user at every stage. If the user finds it difficult to book, there will be a certain amount of mistrust, as their personal health is at stake. In addition, due to the fact that many people get their information from two or more, sometimes conflicting, sources, the patient experiences a boomerang effect due to too much information.

Influencing the channels used to search for information is the type of appointment the patient intends to book. For example, for routine appointments, we see on the podium the website of the private clinic ( which should contain all the necessary information) and Google Maps (e.g. for reviews and opening hours). This means that the user experience must be easy, immediate and provide all the information immediately.


Step 3. Booking an appointment. Which channels are most frequently used? The Internet on the podium

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The channels used to book appointments are generally the Internet (55%), by telephone (42%) and at the physical reception (2%). The research also found that, in terms of user perceptions, the booking confirmation message and the cancellation experience were particularly important. Among the private clinics reviewed, there are some that do not use messages or emails to communicate the fact that a booking has been made, which significantly lowers the perception of security as the patient does not feel confident that the process has been successful. Centres such as GVM, Multimedica and Auxologico, which use this system, are the best in terms of perceived security on the web. Some centres use the post-booking message but have not carried out the appropriate checks on the sending system, so when booking in some centres, some of our testers received a confirmation email, others a message, others no notification.

"This means that there is still a lot to be done in regards to the customer journey reorganisation of many private clinics. The message is also a reminder to the patient, and a confirmation of booking can potentially decrease the abandonment rate on the site," explains Benedetto Lamacchia.

Step 4. What is the cancellation experience like? 50% is via the web, the other 50% by telephone

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Although the percentage is evenly split, there are still many shortcomings in telephone cancellation support. This is because more and more people are choosing to rely on the web, as long as there is a confirmation (via email or message) of the cancellation, which reassures the patient about the process. Using the telephone channel is a risk that involves long waiting times and often a failure to respond, although, for many, it is still the most effective channel for getting more answers to their query.

GVM, Multimedica and Auxologico: the best for experience, safety and reliability

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Among the seven centres investigated, GVM, Multimedica and Auxologico conquer the podium: according to the community, they were perceived as the best for all drivers (customer effort, waiting time and user satisfaction). Indeed, the top 3 performers give the impression of possessing a solid customer experience management strategy that focuses on the user experience. For example, GVM was the best performing centre in both the booking and cancellation process.

"This is a sign that there has been a holistic approach to planning that has worked on all touchpoints, as is also shown by some of the feedback and reports from the users of our community who have used the website: the information was clear, there were no difficulties in completing the operation, the confirmation email arrived complete with all the details, to name but a few," concludes Lamacchia.

Want to learn more about our method and discover all the data? Download our complete research.


download the research

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