Online medical directories are supposed to function like retail store locators, connecting people with the right provider at the right place and time. But finding providers through directories is not always easy.

In fact, as reported in Internet Health Management, digital physician directories are riddled with mistakes. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid has revealed a host of chronic problems that Medicare patients encounter when they use directories to find providers – even one year after a similar study called out providers for the same issue.

The common errors include:

  • Inaccurate data at the most basic level, such as the wrong phone number listed or a provider not being located where the directory said they could be found.
  • Dated information, such as listings existing for retired physicians.

As noted in Internet Health Management,

“The results of the review revealed at least one inaccuracy at 52% of Medicare Advantage Organizations studied. Errors included the provider not being at the location listed, an inaccurate phone number or the physician not accepting new patients when the directory stated they were. “The majority of the MAOs (37/54) had between 30% and 60% inaccurate locations,” says a new report from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. “Because MAO members rely on provider directories to locate an in-network provider, these inaccuracies pose a significant access to care barrier.”

Frankly, we’re not surprised. Inaccurate provider directories are a common problem for providers. Find-a-doctor directories require management of many moving parts, ranging from the search engine itself to the provider pages that need to be updated and managed constantly. Too often, providers underestimate how much time and attention they need to devote to the management of directories. Providers need to treat their directories as digital front doors to receiving care by removing friction from the search process. We recommend that you:

  • Take stock of the health of your directories. Start searching for providers from the perspective of the patient and assess how easy or difficult it is to find what you need. Audit the completeness of your physician listings for accuracy and completeness.
  • Treat your provider directory like a competitive asset to manage on an ongoing basis. Don’t update it once and forget about it.
  • Invest in an automated platform to do the heavy lifting required for a provider directory to flourish. Drop the manual processes if you have not done so already.

Your medical provider directory can be a powerful tool for patient onboarding – if you manage it correctly. For more insight into this topic, check out “Correct the 3 Deadly Sins of Physician Directories” and The Healthcare Marketer’s Guide to Building a Physician Directory.