Several online review sites exist primarily to help patients choose their physician by using ratings and reviews. While these sites are beneficial in giving happy patients and families a natural platform to provide testimonials, they also strike fear and anxiety into the hearts of many hospitals, clinics, and doctors’ offices.
While it can be nerve-wracking to think about doctors’ reputations being in the hands of their patients, stop for a moment to consider what things were like pre-Internet. Patients were still talking about their experiences with doctors (good and bad), but doctors had no idea what patients were saying, where they were saying it, or to whom. They also had no way to reach out and respond to negative comments, and help to calm angry patients and mitigate their frustration. So instead of viewing physician review sites as a threat, we view them as a great opportunity to learn and get involved in what patients are saying.
Here are three things you need to know about online physician review and ratings sites, ways they can benefit your practice, and how to manage your reputation.
1 – Check out the leading physician review sites.
New review and ratings sites for the healthcare industry are popping up every day. Current leaders offer a higher volume of reviews, more thorough data, and a smooth user experience, like these:
- Healthgrades – Find physicians, dentists, and hospitals, with 1+ million physician profiles.
- Vitals.com – Find and review physicians; provides comprehensive information on physicians so patients can “prepare” for their visit. More than 100 million patients visit the site each year.
- RateMDs.com – Directory, forums, and ratings site for finding physicians.
- UCompare Health Care – Physician reports include demographic data as well as education, certification, and disciplinary information.
- ZocDoc and Patient Fusion – Ratings/reviews as an outgrowth of appointment scheduling services, currently limited to major markets right now. Patient Fusion claims to have 27,312 doctors and 1,538,575 reviews so far. ZocDoc gets 2.5 million visitors each month.
- Angie’s List and Yelp – These sites are not exclusive to doctors or healthcare, but include them as a vertical.
- Better Doctor – No reviews are included, but the site uses third party sources to compile rankings and ratings of doctors in five specialties: primary care, pediatrics, OBGYN, dental, and eye doctors.
With PPACA and new transparency initiatives taking effect in 2014, more competitors will enter this space. Their influence can be measure in self-reported traffic data, number of reviews, depth of profile data, and ability to connect patients with the doctors and services they need.
2 – Be aware of where they’re getting data on healthcare providers.
These websites do not reveal exactly what their data sources or verification processes are. Data like bio, credentials, address, etc. comes from a variety of sources, including
- Physician directories
- Association databases
- Federal and state government public information
- Hospital or clinic websites
- User-submitted information
- Doctor-submitted information
- Other ratings/review sites
Ratings and reviews are user-submitted. When sites have very few ratings/reviews posted, a single review can easily sway overall averages – so keeping an eye on quantity of reviews, and encouraging more from satisfied patients, may be important for your listings.
3 – Whenever possible, claim your listings.
There’s no real way to control content on these sites – but the next best thing to own the listings/profiles for your practice or facility. The degree to which doctors and/or hospitals/clinics can claim the listings varies by site, but they can be notified when a new review is posted. Control over content is generally limited to
- Responding to reviews,
- Contacting reviewers, and
- Updating information like bio, credentials, photos, etc.
Some sites offer additional paid options to give your listing more prominence in search results or to unlock additional advertising options. These costs vary widely.
Generally negative reviews cannot be removed. However, there are effective methods for responding to negative reviews and encouraging positive reviews, which we’ve used successfully with other clients and would love to talk about with you.
Working with the industries of travel, finance, insurance, retail, and CPG, we’ve seen it all when it comes to online reputation management. Our strategies and training sessions have helped clients handle this in-house and with ongoing support and the tools they need to stay on top of these listings.
Interested in learning more about online rating/review sites for physicians? Let’s talk.