IN A NUTSHELL:
- Many websites allow for patients to leave reviews about physicians
- Physicians are often unable to dispute or verify what is written
- Bad reviews, truthful or not, can impact a career and reputation
Similar to how consumers use online reviews about local retail stores or restaurants to make decisions about their spending habits, online reviews about physicians written by patients are playing an important role in health care access decisions.
These reviews, usually found on websites such as Healthgrades, WebMD, or Yelp are a well-known refuge for patients wanting to share their experiences—both negative and positive.
While they are enjoyed by the patient, for the health care professional these types of websites present a Catch-22 scenario. Many health care providers believe the vetting process for comments is insufficient on their end. But for the patient the reviews are beneficial for anyone looking for information to base their treatment decisions off of.
A recent survey found that 82 percent of respondents said they use online provider reviews to evaluate their doctors in some way—up from only 25 percent of patients that said they used online reviews in 2013.
Research suggests that when patients make a decision on choosing a healthcare professional, non-clinical ratings from commercial websites carry the same weight as clinical ratings provided by the government, such as the Five-Star Quality Rating System provided by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Consequently, the volume of reviews was found to be almost as important as the content of the review itself.
Reports show that a higher number of reviews resulted in a more positive attitude toward the rated physician or the medical practice as a whole. Health care facilities with a small online presence could be missing out on hundreds of new patients each year. In fact, if health care providers and facilities take the time to cultivate an extensive, positive review history they could more easily obtain out-of-network patients.
Research shows that many patients would be willing to go out of their insurance network for a health care provider with favorable reviews if none were found in-network.
Building this online presence for yourself as an individual health care professional or for your practice as a whole is not as daunting as it may seem to be. You can start small with establishing yourself on Google Maps. This will not only make yourself easier for patients to physically find, yet also serves as a way to respond to any negative feedback that may be left. While you may feel hesitant at first to publicly engage with a patient due to privacy concerns—doing so is actually respected and seen as an important step to take by other patients as long as HIPAA laws are not violated. In fact, the more time a provider takes to publicly engage with and respond to their patients’ reviews can drastically decrease the likelihood of more negative reviews in the future.
With respect to patient reviews of physicians, quality, quantity, and content all go hand in hand. Studies have found that the quantity of reviews is of the utmost importance to a healthcare professional. If there is a large number of reviews, prospective patients reported no difference in how they were impacted no matter if the reviews were factual or purely opinionated and driven by emotions—negative or positive.
Yet if a health care professional or medical facility has a limited number of reviews, the credibility and reputation weigh heavily upon the content of those reviews.
A healthcare professional should consider methods to centralize, showcase, review, and respond to all of their patient reviews. Data points, such as the style of reviews, quantity of reviews, and content of reviews directly impact a patient’s attitude toward the health care professional. Consider a mobile app like Vigil that will let you compile, dispute, and reply to patient reviews that are verified through your own personal QR Code.
Having this portfolio of reviews along with your respective responses can increase credibility, visibility, patient trust, and grow your practice as more patients seek treatment from a health care professional with a proven track record.