October 17, 2016
2 min read

Establish a presence on patient review websites

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Who has not experienced the joy of receiving a positive five-star review, gleefully thinking that you are doing everything right, only to then obsess over one patient who had a co-pay and went online to relentlessly blast to humanity how horrible an experience it was to be in your office? Who has not lost sleep over that one review?

There is no doubt that with modern health care, Internet review sites value patient experience over treatments and outcomes as the criteria to measure doctors and care. High deductibles and new payment models are making patients behave more as commodity consumers of health care rather than seekers of expertise.

With all this newfound patient power, it is no surprise that new patients/consumers are turning to online doctor reviews as a means to predict what type of experience they will have at a new office. Online review sites give patients information about the “consumer experience” along with the doctor, staff and operation. But is that really what patients use the review sites for?

A recent survey by Software Advice evaluated how 4,515 patients in the U.S. are using patient online reviews to research doctors. They found that only 25% of patients actually pay attention to other patients’ online reviews. In the average optometry office of 6,000 patients, 1,500 patients is a number you cannot afford to disregard.

Perhaps not surprisingly, consumers 35 years and younger are more likely to value online reviews. However, do not dismiss the seniors, as 27% of the 65+ age group uses online reviews. Income is also a factor, with the use of reviews increasing with income. Patients living in urban areas are also more likely to use online reviews than their suburban or rural family members.

Agustin L. Gonzalez

Interestingly for health care, males are 25% more likely to use reviews than females. The website Healthgrades.com is the most common resource for physician evaluations, with Yelp being the second.

There is no doubt that a presence on websites with patient reviews can help attract new patients and reveal the demographic of the typical online reviewer. It is imperative that you, the business owner, have a presence that you can craft in the review sites. I have seen many offices have an online review and no picture or even a phone number for the office. When people are searching for you, there will be many more doubts about the office and operation than with the office that has an updated picture and clear information.

The best way to boost your online reputation and improve your reviews is to just ask your patients to leave a review for you. You can do it creatively, by offering discounts or special promotions. Early attention to negative feedback will also more than likely be valued by the reader.

Lastly, be aware of patient privacy and HIPAA laws while responding to reviews.

Disclosure: Gonzalez is a managing partner in www.FourTimes52.com.