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When we think about third-party review sites focusing on medical providers, we are inclined to perceive the websites as bidirectional, mainly benefiting patients by providing unbiased feedback about providers, and benefiting providers by allowing them to connect with potential patients.

Much like changes in other marketplaces, changes in customer feedback have impacted the healthcare industry, which can benefit from data provided from online review platforms such as Vitals.

Vitals’ SmartShopper rewards program

Vitals is a perfect example of a highly valuable and synergic relationship that is allowing insurance providers to leverage the database by connecting members with lower-cost providers for specific services, while rewarding them for utilizing the SmartShopper feature, a platform that allows individuals to shop around for the most cost-effective provider. In turn, their behavior is incentivized by receiving cash rewards.

(Check out: “Vitals Celebrates Milestone of 6 Million Reviews, Shares Customer Experience Trends in Healthcare”)

Clinics, labs, and diagnostic centers whose business model benefits from volume over margin are able to leverage this initiative and gain significant traction in securing incremental business when the services provided are comparable in quality and features to a higher priced provider.

For example, a patient in need of an MRI, whose initial quote can be as high as $2400, will be guided through a set of qualifying questions designed to match him or her with a provider whose MRI is a mirror image of the initial quote, but with a more economical pricing structure.

The newly quoted rate could be as low as $450, resulting in savings for the insurance provider of almost $2000, and a patient incentive via the SmartShopper cash-back plan of $150.

The program has proven to be highly effective in setting the stage for successful, volume-based providers by redirecting patients that would not otherwise discover these options. Providers with lower costs can therefore reduce their marketing spend and focus on partnering with, with confidence that highly qualified patient leads will be directed their way with significant consistency.

Last year, the SmartShopper Incentives and Rewards program saved insurance and employer group providers over $11 million and distributed $1.3 million in the form of patient rewards.

Healthcare providers also benefited by having the added ability to connect with patients that would not otherwise be inclined to give an alternate healthcare or services provider a second look.

Medical providers of all sizes can potentially benefit from working on the pricing structure of certain services in order to have an initial interaction with a patient who will most likely utilize other services available by the provider to meet future medical needs. Many medical marketing strategists feel this approach is both useful and sustainable as a means of brand amplification.

SmartShopper Increases Platform Engagement

Having the additional value of a cash incentive for shoppers has resulted in a 90 percent repeat engagement for those that participate in the program. Repeat engagement increases brand recall, improves the perception of trustworthiness, and aids in facilitating a first-time engagement with a provider whose price structure proves advantageous.

Even if the patient does not select the lowest priced provider, in order to receive the cash incentive, there is a high probability that he or she will select a provider from those listed and reviewed on Vitals, giving a competitive edge to any medical provider with an active profile.

“Having the additional value of a cash incentive for shoppers has resulted in a 90% repeat engagement for those that participate in the program.”

In many instances, other characteristics such as the experience level of the provider, accessibility to certain technologies, or proximity to their home or work may result in patients opting out of the cash incentive for the sake of convenience, or simply to get a provider that is better aligned with their preferences.

SmartShopper Saves Employers and Insurance Providers

Most healthcare providers are now subject to a variety of quality metrics that determine payment.

Because of this, having a price structure that benefits the insurance provider or employer plan may give a clinic, lab, or other type of medical provider an advantage in how they meet the criteria set forth by insurance companies, while allowing for additional price-motivated patients to be redirected their way. A better pricing structure solidifies the relationship of an insurance provider with a healthcare provider, often resulting in a preferred status.

SmartShopper Provides Cash Incentives to Over 50 Percent of Repeat Users

For any doctor, lab, hospital, diagnostics provider, and rehab facilities trying to evaluate whether or not there is value in listing and managing their listing on Vitals, consider this: SmartShopper rewards over 50 percent of program participants, furthering the sticky factor of the program and keeping members from going to other review sites.

(Related: “Doctors, Hospitals, and Healthcare Marketers and Organizations: A List of Online Review Sites You Track and Manage”)

If a provider is looking into purely from a lead generation perspective, this program alone may be sufficient to validate the time and money invested in including Vitals as part of the active review site portfolio for a healthcare provider.

One of the greatest challenges for medical marketers comes in the form of effective prioritization of marketing efforts and resources. With dozens of review sites featuring reviews by patients for healthcare providers, knowing how to optimize the where and when of a marketing spend is essential to the long-term success of a practice.

Programs like SmartShopper designed to foster website-specific loyalty through the provision of patient reviews, plus incentives and savings, will most likely become the norm more than the exception.

For now, however, medical practices and specialized clinics would do well to study the potential benefits of engaging in price-based referrals as a means to secure incremental business and remain competitive. While this approach might not be ideal for every single medical practice or doctor, it is worth considering even if it is a temporary move, with very specific strategic objectives related to brand development in a new market. Objectives might include accelerated online review acquisition, or the opportunity to have first-time patients in order to cultivate relationships conducive to strong brand loyalty.


How has brand management impacted your healthcare marketing? Let us know in the comments below!

Kevin Kent

Kevin is the Director of Finance and Operations at ReviewTrackers. Every day he finds creative ways to solve business owners' problems and identifies key issues to help them achieve top results.


  1. Shaun Martin

    It’s a great way to finally find out what you were paying for.

  2. Paula

    This certainly is an innovative idea and I can’t wait to see it grow, however I can see people finding it a little over the top in some cases. There are lots of not-so-tech-savvy people out there who find using services like this one quite demanding, no matter how easy it is to use it.

  3. Michael

    Healthcare was complicated enough even without this innovations. Now, it’s even more confusing.

  4. Fiona Wong

    I find it helpful,now you can see where you money really goes ,find out what are you really paying for. I agree that can be complicated sometimes but all innovations are. We just have to go with it.