How are patients using online reviews—and what does it mean for physicians?

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Online reviews are growing increasingly important for physicians as more and more patients turn to review sites both to find and to evaluate their doctors. Software Advice, a technology review site for practice management buyers, recently released the results of a survey conducted to gather more information about patients’ use of online reviews. The site had conducted the same survey in 2013 and was revisiting the topic to see what had changed. The latest findings show that:

  • The percentage of patients who use online reviews increased by 68 percent in 2014.
  • Almost half of patients say they would go outside their network for a doctor with better reviews.
  • The most trusted review sites are Yelp and HealthGrades, though Yelp is most popular.

How willing are patients to go out of network as a result of reviews?

Whereas the 2013 survey found only 26 percent of people said they would go out of network for a doctor with better reviews, the 2014 survey found that 44 percent of people said the same. The fact that patients are increasingly willing to pay out of pocket for their health care needs suggests that the experiences of other patients are a major factor in patients’ choice of doctors.

Review site comparison

Yelp, Healthgrades and RateMDs took the top three spots for both most used and most trusted review sites. Yelp was the most used review site with 27 percent of respondents saying they used it most frequently. Healthgrades and RateMDs tied with 26 percent.

Similarly, Yelp and Healthgrades tied for most trusted; each was chosen as most trusted by 26 percent of respondents. RateMDs was a close third, chosen by 24 percent.

When and why do patients use online reviews?

  • 61% — Before choosing a doctor
  • 20% — To evaluate their doctor
  • 19% — After choosing a doctor

Though most patients consulted online reviews prior to choosing a doctor, nearly 40 percent used reviews either to evaluate their current doctors or after selecting doctors, which demonstrates that maintaining a positive online reputation is important not only for new patient attraction but also for patient retention.

The most sought-after information included quality of care provided by doctors (cited by 48 percent), doctors’ ratings (45 percent), other patients’ experiences (38 percent), and accuracy of diagnoses (34 percent).

What does this mean for medical residents and practicing physicians?

Patients are doing their homework by checking out physicians before making appointments, and they are influenced by what they read. Eighty-five percent of those surveyed said they would be moderately likely to choose one physician over another based on reviews.

These online reviews educate patients about more than just a physician’s qualifications. They also cover concerns such as a doctor’s bedside manner, follow-up care and listening skills. It is important for physicians—especially those accepting new patients—to keep tabs on their reviews on sites such as Yelp, HealthGrades and RateMDs. This can show them strengths and areas for improvement in the eyes of their patients. Additionally, physicians can encourage their patients to review them on these sites and to consult reviews on these sites when seeking referrals.

Source: Practice Management Buyer Resource Software Advice


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