Traditionally, prospective patients have relied on word of mouth or blind appointments to determine which physician will fit them. However, the internet has drastically changed the game. Online doctor reviews are now one of the largest components of a patient's search for a caregiver.
A common myth is that only primary care physicians are subject to online doctor reviews. However, this isn't the case at all. It can be surprising to learn that every type of doctor, including surgeons, dermatologists, internists, cardiologists, radiologists, and more, have online doctor reviews.
All doctors should be aware of the pros and cons of online doctor reviews, as they will only play a larger role in consumer decisions as time passes.
Benefits of Online Doctor Reviews
Online doctor reviews have brought many benefits to the healthcare industry.
Streamlines The Doctor Decision Process
Like with all technology, the birth of the online doctor review has streamlined the process of patients deciding which doctor to use. Instead of searching through friends and friends of friends for doctor reviews via word of mouth, it is extremely easy to go online and read through reviews of doctors to make a decision about who to see for care.
Reviews force doctors to be aware of the fact that their actions during patient care can lead to a positive or negative review. This could influence prospective clients and have a significant impact on the current treatment of patients.
Rewards Exceptional Service
Doctors who have both great expertise and a great bedside manner get positive reviews. In the best of worlds, online reviews bolster the reputations of the doctors who deserve it most.
Negatives of Online Doctor Reviews
Though there are a few strong advantages to the use of online doctor reviews, it is vital to be aware of their many disadvantages.
A Minority of Patients Review
Online doctor reviewers are not an accurate sample size and do not truly represent the whole of a doctor's patients and their experiences. In general, the people who most often review are those who had either extremely positive or extremely negative experiences (more often the latter). According to a study, patients are about 35% likely to review a negative experience vs only 25% likely to review a positive one. This can disproportionately skew data, creating ratings that have an unfair influence on a doctor's reputation.
Negative Reviews May Not Be Doctor's Fault
There are a few common causes of negative reviews that are outside of the doctor's fault. Individuals who post online doctor reviews are often frustrated with:
- Wait time
- Other patients around them
- The doctor's perceived poor bedside manner
- Problems with the practice's or hospital's staff or nurses
Regardless of fault or the quality of care itself, these reviews and ratings reflect badly on the doctor alone.
Unless removed by the poster, online doctor reviews, like anything publicly posted on the internet, are permanent. False reviews can affect doctors' businesses for a very long time. Even when negative reviews are true, they can continue to affect the doctor's reputation for a long time after they have corrected the issues.
Opinions Rule Over Data
Online doctor reviews are inherently based on the patient's opinion rather than relevant patient care data. Because of this, a doctor with a perceived poor bedside manner can get a very negative review even if the quality of care, diagnosis, treatment, and aftercare is very high. For example, a recent study noted that cardiac surgeon reviews had no correlation with their mortality rates.
Reviews Disproportionately Affect Decisions
Due to the sensitivity and seriousness of health concerns, online doctor reviews are much more important as factors in decision-making than, say, reviews about plumbers or gardeners. For example, nearly 60% of Americans said doctor reviews were somewhat or very important in their decisions about who to see for healthcare. This means they can have that much more of a serious and long-term effect on the doctor's reputation.
What Can Doctors Do?
There are a few actions that doctors should be aware of that can decrease future negative reviews.
Don't React Impulsively
Many doctors go online to review sites like Yelp and respond to negative reviews by defending themselves and their actions with confidential patient information. This is a serious issue. An impulsive response that threatens a patient's privacy--while defying HIPAA regulations--can lead to serious (and expensive) litigation and is very unethical.
Doctors' waiting rooms are notorious for having lengthy and frustrating wait times. To lessen this issue, make sure that your staff isn't overbooking your schedule. This can very easily lead to patient frustration and then negative reviews, even if your level and quality of care are high.
Coordinate with Staff
All doctors should regularly communicate the importance of good attitudes with their staff. Bad customer service, such as difficulty with staff, has been an influential and significant factor in many of the most negative reviews.
Promote Doctor-Patient Relationships
There are a few actions that can improve doctor-patient relationships, including:
- Investing in patients and your conversations with them
- Making eye contact instead of focusing on electronic health records
- Asking them questions outside of medical concerns
- Providing individual and genuine feedback
These small actions can do wonders for patient satisfaction and help the doctor build a positive reputation.
Encourage Patient Reviews
Many patients don't think about reviewing doctors after visits, even positive ones. After appointments, request that patients rate and review their experience online. You can also anonymously poll them as they leave your office and offer some small incentive.
Online Doctor Reviews are Growing
The popularity of online reviews is growing each year. Nearly 80% of prospective patients use online doctor reviews as their first step in deciding who to see for medical concerns. Over half of physicians look at their own reviews to assess patient satisfaction.
Online doctor reviews will continue to increase their influence on the business aspect of patient healthcare. Doctors should do what they can to increase patient satisfaction overall, which will encourage positive reviews and a positive reputation in their communities.