If you are one of the many doctors, dentists or other healthcare professionals lamenting the proliferation of online patient reviews and review sites, then this newsletter should give you some comfort. You are not alone. And there’s professional help waiting for you in the form of healthcare practice reputation management partners and programs.
If you think patients are poorly equipped to review the quality of your care or expertise, you are in very good company. Many doctors and dentists feel the same way. Yet, patient reviews continue growing in popularity as consumers challenge the idea that their doctors or dentists are the best sources of reliable treatment information.
Sadly, many consumers use the review site Yelp to rate health providers the same way they rate plumbers. Instead of calling out a doctor over inadequate care or a misdiagnosis, patients are far more likely to complain about long wait times, difficulty getting appointments, insurance and billing errors, the practitioner’s standoffish bedside manner or the office staff’s rudeness.
In the worst cases, doctors, dentists and other health providers have threatened or filed lawsuits against patients who post negative reviews on Yelp. Some have even tried to sue Yelp itself. Be warned, however. The track record for such lawsuits is very poor, with courts typically ruling in favor of Yelp and the healthcare consumers.
Making the Grade
Though Yelp’s health reviews began in 2004, more than half have been posted in just the past two years. These reviews attract millions of views monthly on Yelp’s site alone. So far, health providers have earned an average of 4 stars. Medical doctors have earned fewer 5-star reviews than other health professionals, and the average doctor reviewed gets 3.6 stars. Chiropractors did far better on average, with ratings of 4.5 to 4.6 stars out of 5.
While some providers (think physical therapists and dentists) actively seek out patient reviews, doctors have been trying to suppress reviews for years. They believe a visit to the doctor is typically more complex than a visit to a dentist, physical therapist or chiropractor. The typical visit to a dentist or physical therapist is for a specific service. The patient’s expectations are usually clear, and results are more easily measured than the results of a typical doctor visit.
Doctors also scored lower on Healthgrades, which focuses solely on health providers, though the difference was smaller than on Yelp. Unlike Yelp, Healthgrades has not allowed general consumers to post comments. Patients who post on Healthgrades might soon see different questions based on the type of doctor they visited. Healthgrades believes this will provide more useful user feedback.
In addition, the American Medical Association encourages patients to communicate their concerns directly to their doctors instead of posting online reviews anonymously. The AMA believes, rightly so, that finding the right physician is more complicated than finding a good hotel room, and smart patients should use the best available resources to make such important choices. The association has called on people who profile physicians to give them the right to review and certify the accuracy of their information before distributing a practice profile or placing it on the Internet.
The AMA understands that your online reputation is critical to the success of your practice, that you need to incorporate online reputation management into your practice and that monitoring and managing your online reputation is not something most physicians can do on their own.
Turning Minuses into Pluses
Services such as Practice Builders’ myPracticeReputation (mypracticereputation.com) not only help you combat negative reviews legally, ethically and in HIPAA-compliant fashion, but also help you generate more positive reviews from satisfied patients and monitor your online reputation.
Start managing and protecting your online reputation by talking to a Practice Builders’ healthcare marketing consultant today. Call 800.679.1200 for more information and a complimentary reputation assessment.
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