A Troubling Prognosis for Medical Practices That Avoid Online Review Sites

January 17, 2014 9:29 am Leave your thoughts

A Troubling Prognosis for Medical Practices That Avoid Online Review Sites

You can’t prevent patients from offering opinions about your medical practice online. If you look past the feedback on review sites, you leave yourself open to reputation damage.

Both the National Committee on Quality Assurance and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services require organizations to publicly report their patient satisfaction data. With this information, patients should be equipped to make informed choices about their medical care. However, online review and rating sites like Yelp, CitySearch and Insider Pages, along with niche-specific sites like Vitals.com, Doctors.com and RateMDs.com, are more prominent than these longtime sources.

Understanding the Current Review-Site Landscape

It can be challenging for patients to distinguish between adequate and excellent healthcare due to their lack of medical knowledge. Obviously, patients will be able to tell whether the cafeteria food is suitable, or if the waiting times are appropriate. However, when you’re feeling poorly, it’s not always easy to determine the quality of care. Just a few years ago, physicians relied on traditional patients satisfaction forms to determine how guests felt about their experience. With the growing popularity of reviews and social media, physicians that go the extra mile are more easily outlined.

Patients are becoming more knowledgeable by reading comments from other patients. The cost of negative online reviews and ratings for physicians is significant and will greatly affect how physicians weigh the benefits and costs of the patient experience (e.g. staff hospitality, bedside manner, waiting times, amenities). In the cases of accurate or malicious information, communicating with the rating website may or may not produce results. Many rating websites are examining different methods to become more objective, which allows the physician’s overall rating to be an accurate indicator of clinical experiences.

Examining the Overall Patient Experience

A negative review likely holds significant weight with the patient, even though it might stand stark contrast to a more positive review. Some reviews and ratings sites websites will publish the names of physicians who require patients to sign non-disclosure agreements. These agreements can often backfire on the physician. Given the lack of balanced and transparent data on healthcare quality, patients must rely on a number of sites to form an opinion. Some of the data pertaining to physician credentials include hospital appointments, academic appointments, educational background, board certifications and awards. Other possible categories are professional affiliations, publications, community involvement and disciplinary history.

Taking Back Control of Online Profiles

Physicians must be cognizant of negative reviews and ratings that will weigh heavily on the minds of patients. Many sites allow a physician to set up a profile for free so that they can feature information about their credentials. Developing a profile on these sites is advisable since many of them rank highly in the search engines. Managing your profile on these sites helps ensure that all information is updated and accurate. All sites are free to consumers, with a majority earning money through advertising. Some sites even offer patient surveys that require valid email addresses in order to submit the form.

The benefit for the physician is positive feedback from patients who posted their individual experiences. These comments boost the credibility of your practice and could attract an entirely new audience. It’s important to take time to manage and monitor these sites on a regular basis. If you acquire the services of an online reputation management firm, they will offer good advice on how to proceed. Consider this: If a Google search by a malpractice company brings up several negative reviews of a physician, could it possibly their decision to offer insurance? With today’s increasing competition for patients, physicians should also act as an online marketing manager and be proactive about their reputation.

Requesting Online Reviews from Patients

A primary source of guidance in terms of physician choice is satisfaction levels of current and former patients. Excellent care should produce a slew of satisfied patients. It’s important to collect and distribute their reviews as widely as possible. If you receive just one review each month on Google, in five months you’ll have enough reviews for stars to appear next to your physician listing. Those stars are bound to attract more visibility – and more clicks – on your listing. If you receive more than 10 reviews, you’ll probably rank in the top 5 percent of total reviews in the medical industry. Keep in mind that quality is more important than quantity. If you continue to receive at least one review each month, then the presence of negative reviews will slide off the first page of Google search results.

A 2013 study by BrightLocal discovered that 80 percent of consumers trusted online reviews just as much as personal recommendations. It’s clear that online ratings and reviews have become today’s form of word-of-mouth marketing. As a result, it’s more important than ever to have patients sharing good news about your practice online.


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Ron D Smith

President at The Review Solution
As President of Third Coast Interactive, Inc., (TCI) Ron D. Smith oversees strategic alliances with local, regional and national corporate partners at the Franklin, Tennessee-based company. Prior to Joining TCI, Ron D. Smith served as President of Reputation Advocate, Inc. His understanding of search engine optimization and the components required in building a comprehensive digital brand for both individuals and companies has positioned him to assist clients utilizing the Third Coast Interactive flagship service The Review Solution.