Having walked into a clean office with a polite, welcoming staff, a young man waiting for his yearly check-up is pleased with his doctor experience so far. He’s on a couch drinking complimentary coffee and watching “Parks and Recreation” on a TV mounted to the wall. He waits about ten minutes before the nurse calls his name.
His doctor has been decreasing patient wait time since reading online reviews across multiple review sites.
Doctors keeping their fingers on the pulse of their reviews and reputation
There’s certainly been a significant shift in the way doctors are thinking about online reviews.
More than 80 percent of doctors now monitor their ratings and reviews, while 1 in 3 doctors respond to patient reviews, according to study by online doctor rating and review company Vitals.
“When online patient reviews first started appearing from sources like Angie’s List and Healthgrades, physicians reacted very negatively, as they believe that patients lack the knowledge to review (a) doctor,” said Mohanbir Sawhney, director of the Center for Research in Technology & Innovation at the Northwestern Kellogg School of Management, in an exclusive interview with ReviewTrackers. “However, transparency is a fact of life and patient opinions matter.”
“As we evolve towards a world of customer-directed health care, the voices of patients will matter even more and therefore doctors are well-advised to monitor and respond to patient reviews.”
Past Vitals studies have revealed that patients are mostly concerned with their overall experience during their doctor visit as opposed to how good a doctor is at their job. Patients focus on factors such as timeliness, friendly staff and how rushed they felt during their appointment, according to Vitals.
While 13 percent of doctors almost never monitor online reviews, 42 percent look at their reviews a few times per year, according to the study. But 75 percent of doctors monitor more than one online review site, while 12 percent check reviews at least once a week.
“Before Vitals launched in 2008, the only tool consumers had to choose a doctor was an insurance book that didn’t list any meaningful information about the quality of the doctor,” said Mitch Rothschild, founder and executive chairman of Vitals. “The reality is that doctors are not created equal. Sites like Vitals help people find the best doctor based on their individual need and criteria of quality.”
The Importance of Online Review Management
Interestingly, doctors with the highest educational qualifications typically receive the most negative online reviews on Yelp, according to a study by Vanguard Communications. This fact makes it even more important to manage your reviews.
“While doctors may bristle at the thought of being ‘shopped’ like a hotel or consumer product, patients check online reviews to make important healthcare decisions and these reviews are too important for (a) doctor to dismiss or ignore,” said Jim Motzer, public relations instructor DePaul University.
“Doctors need to understand what’s being said about them online so that they can respond to patients’ questions about their online reviews.”
Review management is becoming more critical than ever for healthcare providers. The amount of U.S. patients checking online reviews keeps increasing, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2014.
“When it comes to online reviews, doctors are in the same boat as college professors, hotels, or any organization – they need to monitor what’s being said about them online to help them manage their online reputations,” Motzer added.
“Listening to feedback helps a doctor address problem areas”
Online reviews are for the most part reliable in determining patient’s opinions, according to a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine by researchers from the Center Health Information and Decision Systems. But these reviews are not associated with care quality received among U.S. patients.
In 2014, a study by Software Advice, researchers found that 42 percent of patients use online reviews, which is a 68 percent increase from their study in 2013. Yelp is the review site used the most, followed by RateMDs and Healthgrades.
“It’s amazing to see the turnaround that has happened over the past five years. Doctors have realized they can build better (a) relationship with patients when they interact with their online reviews,” said Rothschild. “Listening to feedback helps a doctor address problem areas for patients in their practice that they may have otherwise not known about. And better patient experiences have been linked in studies to better clinical outcomes.”