Consumer Search and Satisfaction with Mental Health Services

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Publication Date


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Journal of Services Marketing




Purpose Recent evidence on consumer decision-making suggests that highly complex choice scenarios lead consumers to use simplistic decision heuristics, often resulting in sub-optimal decision-making. This study aims to investigate the relationships among consumers’ primary information source, patient satisfaction and patient well-being, specifically focused on the search for mental health professionals. The selection of a mental health provider is of interest, because practitioners work from a highly diverse set of theoretical bases, may hold a wide range of different credentials and provide drastically different therapeutic approaches, therefore making the selection complex and difficult for consumers to self-navigate.
Design/methodology/approach Three studies were undertaken, with data sampling from both patients of mental health services and practitioners.
Findings Consumers selecting a provider based on self-performed searches, rather than receiving external input (referrals from physicians, relatives or friends), report lower satisfaction with their mental health provider. In turn, patient satisfaction positively impacts patient well-being. Practitioner data corroborate these findings, revealing that a large percentage of patients stem from a self-performed internet search, though mental health providers recognize that external referrals are likely to lead to better outcomes.
Originality/value The results reveal the importance of understanding the consumer search and, particularly, the use of the internet as a search tool. The results present several implications for service providers, including the need to identify patients’ primary source utilized within an information search, as it can adversely impact patient satisfaction.