In 2010, a man in Minnesota did not like the bedside manner of the neurologist treating his father. The man posted online reviews on a couple of popular doctor review aggregators – reviews that referred to the neurologist as a “real tool.”
The whole thing sparked a controversial legal battle in which the Minnesota Supreme Court ended up deciding that the reviews were not defamatory. It’s a pretty long story – spanning four years – but apparently this case is very crucial in understanding what patients really want in the age of Yelp and Dr. Oogle.
(By the way, if you want to read more about that case in Minnesota, check out our summary, “Sorry, Doc: This Online Review Saying You’re a ‘Real Tool’ Isn’t Defamatory.”)
According to a new study by medical marketing firm Vanguard Communications, patients want – above all – excellent customer service and bedside manner. In fact, these seem to matter to patients more than level of medical skill: in the multi-city study, the patients who post negative online doctor reviews complain about poor service and bedside manner four times as much as they did about misdiagnoses and inadequate medical skills.
The study aggregated doctor reviews – 3,617 of them, to be exact – and evaluated the reasons for satisfaction/dissatisfaction cited by patients. These reviews came from multiple online medical review sites, including Yelp, RateMDs.com, and Vitals.com.
Interestingly, only 21.5 percent of the negative online reviews cited medical skill as a major concern. Meanwhile, 43.1 percent indicated that the cause of the annoyance was because the doctor was rushed, or late for a scheduled appointment, or did not listen well, or seemed dismissive of the patient’s concerns.
“Doctors who sue patients very rarely gain anything but additional negative publicity,” said Vanguard Communications CEO Harman King. “Often, the easier solution is to take preventive measures – examples include a doctor apologizing to a patient in the exam room for running behind schedule, and staffing the phones and front desk of a doctor’s office with the most cheerful employees.”