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The Usefulness of Physician Online Reviews

The practice of online reviews isn’t surprising and is just a natural extension of the proliferation of categories and services consumers regularly provide and read reviews in the spirit of making better-informed decisions. Most health care providers have felt the pressure building to support or strategize around patient reviews of hospital and doctor visits.  If you’re considering a strategy around reviews or just beginning, here are 4 factors to consider:

1.    The Ground Swell is Evident

75% of patients start their health care search online. Yelp statistics show health makes up to 6% of its reviews, more than hotel, nightlife or auto categories. Nearly 50% read online reviews before they make an appointment.*

“This is the fastest growing trend in health care” according to Andy Ibbotson, Vice President at Lincoln; Nebraska-based National Research Corp. NCR converts patient satisfaction surveys into online ratings for hospital websites. “More and more reimbursement is being tied to patient satisfaction.”

2.    Can Online Reviews Translate Effectively in Health Care?

The value and credibility of reviews are always left for interpretation by the readers across any given category. But validity of review is easier to assess in some categories. For example, we all are relative experts when it comes to dining out or what’s important when selecting vacation destinations.  Most reviewers can likely provide a reasonable and informed report on restaurant ratings like food presentation, quality, waiter competency and overall ambiance.

But can that same relative expertise hold true in world of physician online reviews.  Yes, we all can provide our observations on the basics like bedside manner of staff, wait times and appearance of the facility. Beyond that, most consumers do not have sufficient knowledge to review the efficacy of the trained medical experts’ evaluation and treatment for an ailment or malady that is unique to a specific patient. So what can be done to embrace and manage physician reviews in a way that does not perpetuate misinformation?

3.    Pro-Active Stance of Hospitals Will Lead to Actionable Reviews

Well, hospitals like Inova Health System and MedStar Health are pro-active in encouraging ratings and unedited comments around their physicians on their websites. Children’s National Health System will also go live soon with its first phase of offering patient online ratings for its doctors.

To be a valuable resource to patients, the accuracy of ratings are paramount. For that reason, MedStar requires the feedback be gleaned from at least 30 patients before the information is published. The only data withheld from publication is that which is considered to be inappropriate, libelous or revealing patient information.*

4.    Transparency Prevails

The future of health care relies on constructive feedback and transparency. A big part of that transparency is full access to patient input on their experiences with the physicians and the hospitals. Carefully considered feedback can only be a win-win – as it truly benefits the patients, physicians and providers.

The time is now to define or redefine your online review strategy to ensure you’re prepared to usher in this new age of peer health care reviews. With some careful planning you can transform the process from passive, scary and sporadic events to engaged, constructive conversation.

*Source: Reed, Tina. Washington Business Journal. “This health care giant just jumped into the online review world”

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