Like so many other industries, the healthcare system is becoming increasingly transparent. That is exceptionally good news for healthcare providers. Before online reviews started to become a standard for evaluation, patients were left with the recommendations of friends and family members when determining who to trust with their healthcare needs. Today, 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation. This shift is potentially a very powerful way to demonstrate value and attract new patients to your practice.
Know the Statistics
A recent study published on softwareadvice.com made some remarkable discoveries about how and when patients use online review sites to research and evaluate physicians. The following were among their most important takeaways:
● 84 percent of patients who responded to the survey use online reviews to evaluate physicians.
● More than three-quarters (77 percent) of patients use online reviews as their first step in finding a new doctor.
● Nearly half of respondents (47 percent) would go out-of-network for a doctor who has similar qualifications to an in-network doctor, but has more favorable reviews.
● Only 6 percent of patients leave “very negative” or “somewhat negative” feedback on reviews sites.
● Sixty percent of respondents feel it’s “very” or “moderately important” for doctors to respond to online reviews.
Healthcare organizations need to be aware that the vast majority of patients today are using online reviews to research physicians, and many are making important decisions based on this research. A meager percentage of reviewers leave negative reviews, and over half of those polled agreed that responding to reviews was important.
Know how Reviews can Help You
Studies show that there are two main criteria that customers consider when evaluating online reviews for physicians. First and perhaps more obviously, reviewers care about the aggregate rating of the doctor. However, it may come as some surprise that a ZocDoc study showed that users consider the quantity of reviews more heavily considered quality. The study revealed, “the 25 percent of doctors with the most patient reviews received five times more appointments than the bottom 25 percent.” Additionally, the study showed that a doctor must have an established record of considerably bad reviews before seeing an adverse effect. The study states that “it is not until a physician’s overall rating falls to 2.5 stars out of five that patient preference for that provider begins to decline significantly.” These findings make it evident that the potential upside of embracing online reviews outweighs the associated risks.
Embrace the Trend
Opening an organization to online criticism is considered by some to be a risk. Doctors make decisions based on years of research and education, while reviewers place a premium on more trivial criteria such as bedside manner and wait times. Indeed, The Economist writes: “Some doctors are still skeptical, fearing, for example, that patients may judge a hospital on its decor rather than its care.” As it turns out, this is relatively rare, and the data shows that the biggest risk a healthcare organization could take would be to reject online reviews. Forbes agrees: “Now that patients are flocking to the Internet, doctors who don’t market themselves will be at a severe disadvantage. If your online presence is weak, you will easily be lost among a sea of doctors who advertises heavily online.” The Harvard Business Review recently published a story on a leader in healthcare transparency, University of Utah Health Care. Their findings encourage other organizations to adopt the following stance: “You combat spurious, spiteful online comments by disclosing the unvarnished opinions of real patients, most of whom are quite happy. And when you do, you draw more people to your website as the source of truth about your organization.”
Treat Every Patient Like a Reviewer
Ultimately, the best strategy for doctors to manage their review profiles is to ensure that they treat every patient as an individual. Every appointment is an opportunity to earn a great review from your patients. This concept extends past the actual appointment, however. Take the time or hire an online reputation management firm to respond to all reviews, both positive and negative. Ask for reviews from satisfied customers, and act as if the patient will review you after every appointment.
Online reviews are creating a greater need for transparency in every industry. With the right strategy in place, doctors and healthcare organizations can benefit from patients’ increasing reliance on online reviews. The first step is to understand that reviews are helpful in showcasing the quality of an organization or equally useful by pointing out areas for improvement. The majority of patients now consider online reviews and most reviewers do not leave negative reviews. Review sites can help organizations in some ways, and the best strategy is to ensure that every patient has a positive experience at your practice.