Planning to buy a new TV but confused about your options? You can come to a decision by evaluating reviews on various sites such as Amazon, Yelp, eBay, etc. In an era of digitalization, online reviews have become a modernized viva voice. If the Internet is your guiding light to gaining insight on almost anything and everything you do, then it’s quite likely that you’ll turn to the Internet for your health decisions, as well.
What do the facts say?
As per a study at the Pew Research Center:
- In U.S. 70% of Internet users looked online for health information in 2012.
- Of these, 30% specifically searched for reviews on rating sites, where anyone can write anything with a near guarantee of anonymity.
- More than 700,000 physicians are listed on Vitals.com, the largest of patient-review sites, which attracts more than 13 million visitors a month. Other rating sites such as ZocDoc.com, RateMDs.com and Yelp.com also maintain sizable directories of provider information.
So, does it appeal to common sense that your potential patients will turn to the Internet to find their next doctor?
The Internet has revolutionized the way information exchange takes place. In this era of social media, information is generated and opinions are transmitted in real time. This empowers customers to make better everyday decisions. So they are now turning to the Internet to make health decisions, as well.
This Internet phenomenon has profoundly changed the dynamics of the doctor-patient relationship. To find a suitable doctor, patients no longer rely on just word-of-mouth or referrals from friends or family. They are web-smart consumers who turn to the Internet their information. For selecting a physician, people are referring to physician rating websites like never before. Also known as physician-review websites (PRWs), these allow patients to submit reviews about a physician on various aspects such as:
Take the first step to protect your online reputation and request your Online Reputation Assessment.
- Overall rating
- Communication skills (explanation of medical care/treatment, follow-up, attentiveness, listening skills and bedside manner)
- Access (availability of appointments, ease of scheduling, punctuality)
- Facilities (office cleanliness, lab services, waiting-room accommodations)
- Staff (courtesy, friendliness, professionalism)
With a few clicks, a patient can choose a physician based on the “star” grading and feedback about the doctor. Studies have found that more and more people are resorting to this “new approach” to find the best healthcare services for them.
A recent study published in JAMA states, “One-third of consumers in the United States who consulted physician website ratings reported selecting and/or avoiding physicians because of these ratings.”
Looking beyond the clouds of ambiguity:
A healthcare practice is similar to any other product or service, where the focus is on brand equity and customer satisfaction. Patients these days go to the physician-rating websites to express their opinions, which in turn serve as a base for building perception for many other potential patients. Online reviews carry great weight, as potential customers often see reviews before they see your website. These can be described as “the new word-of-mouth (amplified)” and are the building blocks of any physician’s reputation.
The use of the physician-rating websites is following an exponential pattern. There has been justifiable skepticism amongst practitioners and the medical community in general, about the authenticity of reviews and the method of validation of reviews on the rating websites. In spite of that, this new medium for researching physicians is not going to go away. The influence of patient ratings and rankings on physician practices can no longer be ignored. Patients, insurance companies and rating websites (for profit and not-for-profit) will continue to rank physicians and evolve in their methods of validating reviews.
The future lies in rating physicians in a more open, transparent and trustworthy manner so that patients are empowered can make better health decisions.