Most Online Physician Reviews are Positive – but Few Exist
As if Twitter, Facebook and other social-media sites don’t offer enough advice for today’s consumers, physician ratings and reviews sites are there to give patients important information about their healthcare options. More than 30 sites exist in this particular niche, including RateMDs.com and Healthgrades.com. General sites like Angie’s List and Yelp also contain physician listings.
These sites have been a little slow to catch on, but doubts that these reviews and ratings services will turn into complaint forums hasn’t necessarily proven true. Although the American Medical Association had previously expressed concerns about patient confidentiality, their doubts have been assuaged by the positive nature of most physician online reviews.
Most patients value their relationship with their physicians and are likely reluctant to present them in a negative manner. Dr. Tara Lagu of Tufts University School of Medicine recently examined online reviews for 81 physicians and found that most reviews – over 80 percent – were positive. Just like any other goods or services, people want to spend their money wisely.
Where can reviews be seen? On Vitals.com, visitors can see ratings, reviews, experience, expertise, sanctions and other valuable information. Meanwhile, physicians have the ability to manage their online profiles, add photos and verify information. This information appears not only on the Vitals.com site, but also on search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing. Major physician reviews and ratings sites like Doctor.com and RateMD.com offer much the same services – and have a similar level of visibility.
In an article published in The Atlantic, “Finding the Right Hospital,” Indiana University professor and radiology department vice chair Richard Gunderman indicates that some of the most important choices of our lives involve medical care. People place their trust on physicians, nurses and other medical practitioners. The services they provide cost a significant amount of money – $900 billion in 2012.
Capitalizing on the Prevalence of Reviews Sites
Physicians can offset the onslaught of negative reviews by encouraging positive comments from their patients. By asking patients to go online and share their experiences, it will deemphasize the negative comments that may appear from time to time. Rather than being a nuisance, online physician reviews and ratings sites can help physicians to increase patient confidence and gain prestige. Physicians can use negative rankings to identify areas for improvement. Patient reviews and ratings might be the next step towards greater transparency in the healthcare industry. Instead of fearing what comments patients might says about your practice, physicians and hospitals should encourage feedback.
The same criteria that might help people search for a new restaurant may not necessarily apply to physicians and hospitals. Why is this? Even if patients report excellent medical care, it might be difficult to tell if the physician reached the correct diagnosis, prescribed the correct medication, or delivered treatment in a reliable fashion.
If you’re not in immediate need of medical attention, how does a patient select a physician? The amount of information about physicians online can be overwhelming. If it’s confusing for healthcare professionals, it must be even worse for people without medical knowledge. Data is available about the quality of care for certain surgical procedures or medical conditions, but it’s not always clear.
If physicians are taking care of patients who are less healthy to begin with, it’s quite probable that their outcomes won’t be as good. For users, it’s important to take into account the perspectives of patients. If all the patients who go to a particular hospital or medical practice are frustrated afterward, there’s a serious issue.
Reviews Center Around More Than Patient Care
Patient reviews and ratings can be skewed for a number of reasons that have nothing to do with quality of care. Even things that most people would consider luxuries – like the general appearance, food service, or parking of the medical practice – are important to certain patients. However, if you’re selecting a physician to perform heart surgery or brain surgery, these amenities might not be such a priority. It’s possible, of course, to be enamored with the various trappings while receiving mediocre medical care.
Physicians are better off inviting patients to go online and perform their own research. A collaborative partnership with patients will help offer a more comfortable environment. It’s critical to remind patients that the information found in an Internet search isn’t always accurate.
The first step is to gain control over what these patients see when perusing your online listings. All physicians and hospitals undergo regular inspections by the same certifying and accrediting organizations. These healthcare professionals have typically received the same training and education. What sets certain physicians and their practices apart from the rest? Too few patients are willing to spend the time and energy required to shop around for the right physician. With ratings and reviews on amenities, outcomes, patient satisfaction and success rates, they may cherry-pick two or three comments and leave the rest.
From a physician’s point of view, an online reputation is a fragile thing that must be managed and protected. A large number of patients will research a doctor’s background online, and the results can influence their decision. Doctors would do well to maintain updated information on ratings and review websites so that false or erroneous details don’t harm your reputation. Many sites expect physicians to provide these updates. Patients can easily be mixed up where multiple doctors have the same or similar names. It can often lead to misplaced ratings and reviews about certain physicians.
Latest posts by Steven Wyer ( More about this Author )
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