At the root of it, many physicians fear the impact and the effort it takes to manage online reviews. A Harvard study published this year showed 78 percent of physicians believed engaging with online patient reviews would increase their job stress, while a smaller group believed it would negatively affect the physician-doctor relationship. But in today’s digital world, the importance of online reviews is undeniable. After all, a staggering 77 percent of patients visit review sites before choosing a physician.
Healthcare is a Marketplace, and Patients Have High Standards
With the greater emphasis on smart decisions in today’s consumer-driven world, patients have high expectations before they walk through the door. Patients want to know what the experience is like in your practice. Did they read that the front desk staff was warm, welcoming, and thorough? Did they read how you took fifteen extra minutes to help a patient understand a drug’s side effects? Or how the bedside manner of some of your doctors was lacking? The answers are likely yes.
Patients who trust their doctors are more likely to experience satisfaction with them. Seeing a number of online reviews can help patients develop trust with a physician or practice. Reading online reviews affirms confidence in your patient’s decision. Feeling empowered is a good start for many patients, especially when placed in a new situation, like visiting a referral specialist. Patients simply want a positive healthcare experience.
It’s Time To Be Intentional About MACRA
With the recent adoption of MACRA, the government is prioritizing quality of care. We hear again and again that the goal of value-based care is to lower healthcare costs while improving healthcare outcomes. An article from the Harvard Business Review states, “We must move away from a supply-driven health care system organized around what physicians do and toward a patient-centered system organized around what patients need.”
Unless all your patients have a very close relationship with you, you won’t always know exactly what your patients need—or where you can improve. Online reviews can show you just where your quality of care may be lacking.
What kind of information are patients looking for in your reviews? A statistic showed that 28 percent of patients searched for a practice’s care quality statistics. Star ratings, other patients’ experiences, and doctor backgrounds followed closely in importance. It seems that like the government, patients are looking for information about the quality of care you provide.
Using Reviews to Your Advantage
Online reviews can impact your practice, reputation, and even your relationship with your patients. While they can be a source of anxiety for some physicians, they can also be a tool to boost patient satisfaction and market your practice.
According to one statistic, 90 percent of consumers read 10 or more reviews online before trusting a business. It’s simple: the more reviews you have, the more patients will perceive you to be credible and trustworthy. And the more they’ll be at ease when they visit you for the first time.
Of course, there will always come a time when the dreaded negative online review happens. The review may be pointing out an actual area of improvement for your clinic, or even something completely arbitrary and out of your control. However, responding tactfully and professionally to negative reviews is just as important as having positive reviews. After all, the internet’s eyes are watching.
Additionally, there are a few tools out there that help minimize negative reviews. Luma Health is a patient communication platform, which sends text messages asking patients for feedback after appointments. If patients rate the visit an 8 or above, they get redirected to a review website of your choice (like Yelp, Google, Facebook, Healthgrades, RateMDS). If patients rate the visit 7 or below, they’re directed to a private feedback form that’s sent directly to your clinic. This minimizes public negative reviews, allowing you to address matters with patients directly to make it better.
No matter what the complaint was, apologize to the patient and thank them for taking the time to leave a review. Then invite them for an offline discussion where you can get a better understanding of what they’re really concerned about. Readers—and the unhappy reviewer—will appreciate the openness, helping you build your transparency.
Tashfeen Ekram, MD, is a radiologist, self-taught coder, healthcare innovator and Co-Founder of Luma Health. Contact him on Twitter at @tashfeenekramMD.