Patients Are Powerful: Why You and I Are Reviewing Our Doctors

July 28, 2015

That meal you had at a fantastic restaurant. The lackluster service that came with your oil change. The beautiful selection at a local boutique. Reviewing our experiences with retail and restaurants is commonplace – we do it all the time. Perhaps it’s not surprising, then, that more and more of us are taking the opportunity to share our opinions of our healthcare.

In general, patients have increased influence and power in the digital age. There are more choices – so consumers mindful of cost can simply find new facilities and doctors to trust with their care. Patient satisfaction now has a dollar value too - the federal government is factoring in patient survey data to determine Medicare reimbursements to hospitals.

There are more forums in which to be heard – from traditional social media sites like Twitter to health-specific review spaces like Vitals – and more evidence that suggests these sites matter. In fact, in one survey, 42 percent of patients reported using online reviews and almost 50 percent indicated they would go out-of-network for a doctor with positive reviews.

In our own analysis, reviews of doctors, nurses, hospitals and other care providers are increasing at an astonishing rate: 50 percent year over year since 2012.

Want to see key insights at a glance? Click here for the infographic: 

Here’s what else Reputation.com’s analysis of thousands of reviews revealed about patient feedback:

Patients want to be heard. In a sentiment analysis of review content, patients prized attentiveness above compassion and even competence. It was the number-one quality that left patients feeling the most positive about their care. The smartest healthcare practitioners invest time during each visit to really pay attention to what patients are sharing with them.

They’re sitting and looking patients in the eye. They’re asking relevant follow-up questions based on what they’re hearing. These healthcare providers are active listeners, using even subtle signals – like nodding and leaning in – to send a message: I care.

Doctors are typically top of mind for patients. Reviews that focus on doctors outnumber those that emphasize nurses, three to one. For most patients, that makes sense. Although nurses are very important and also have an impact on review feedback, the physician is the star of the healthcare show. He or she is the main event, the trusted source of information – and medicine – that will make it all better.

That’s why hospital administrators and clinic managers should sit up and pay attention – because the patient-doctor experience will have a disproportional impact on a facility’s reviews. For solo practitioners or small medical practices, it’s even more critical to make sure patients get the best of care since they won’t have other staff reviews to counteract negative reviews. In either situation, more emphasis on holding physicians to a high standard of patient conduct and care is warranted.

Reviews differ depending on a patient’s level of illness. Patients with significant medical issues tend to be more satisfied with their care – 60 percent leave positive reviews as compared to those with minor medical problems. Just 47 percent of people with these less significant issues felt their healthcare warranted positive mentions, often writing about more than just the outcome of their care but also the holistic experience (for example, the wait time to be seen, the lines at the pharmacy, the attitude of the office staff). This makes sense: doctors tend to spend more time with patients who have serious illnesses because these individuals need more attention to ensure the right diagnosis and follow-up care. Physicians have a finite amount of time in each day – so it’s probably true that easily treated conditions are given only the time they warrant to diagnose treatment and move on.

Despite consistent growth, most patients aren’t writing reviews (yet). Sharing perspective on one’s healthcare experience is a rapidly growing trend in the review space. But despite this growth, most providers still don’t have any reviews – essentially a black hole for people looking for solid information. Of those providers who have reviews, most will have 10 reviews or less – and the tenor of this feedback is primarily positive. But it’s clear that both the volume and the tone will change as leaving a review for a clinic visit becomes as routine as rating a cheeseburger joint. Smart healthcare providers are beginning to find unobtrusive, privacy-compliant ways to solicit online feedback from patients. This may include a link to a quick survey embedded in a generic post- appointment email – or even directly asking patients to fill out a survey as part of an after-visit follow-up. Still others are proactively asking patients to accurately recount and rate their experiences on relevant review sites like Vitals and Healthgrades. More reviews mean higher credibility and for most practitioners, a stronger overall rating. For patients researching caregivers, low numbers of reviews are not as useful as a strong showing – so content should be taken as one data point among many to consider. Keep an open mind.

Have you checked out your own reviews – or wondered how to encourage more from your patients? Reputation.com for Business is a platform that supports proactively engaging your patients, obtaining more accurate reviews, deploying surveys, and analyzing them to understand where you’re doing well and areas for improvement. Get in touch at (650) 381-3075 and healthcare@reputation.com.

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