Earlier this year, Bokenkamp Consulting conducted a research study on how consumers make mental health decisions in an online world. The point of the research was to determine, once a patient has committed to seek therapy, how does she go about finding a therapist?
The initial focus group was 12 professional women from the Delaware Valley. Aged 29-60, who all reported either comfortable or very comfortable using a computer. Based on the focus group results, we generated a survey instrument that we used to evaluate online solutions for finding therapists. We subsequently used that survey on 80 similar women.
Finally, based on the survey results, we conducted a factor analysis to determine what motivations and thought processes the consumers were using when viewing websites of therapists.
We were quite surprised by the results.
Our findings showed that two different issues are primary in users minds: data sufficiency and source trustworthiness. In other words: does this site have enough information about a therapist and do I trust where this information is coming from? These women wanted a lot of information about each therapist they might see, and they wanted to know that the site they were looking at was reputable and vetted the information.
Looking at a variety of sources including Google searches, insurance websites, health systems and private directories, we found repeatedly that what users wanted was a trusted source of lots of data.
Not surprisingly, there were very few solutions that met exactly what they were looking for. The established, recognized and trustworthy sources tended to have very little data, while the places that had lots of data tended to appear of questionable or dubious value to the users.
Additional research may be required, but we found that there was ample opportunity to build solutions that matched consumer need.
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