Online Health, Part III: Online Reviews Are More Important than Ever

Between healthcare websites that consumers don’t find helpful and social networks that don’t deliver on their promises of engagement, it’s not surprising that some doctors find maintaining an effective online presence challenging. You work hard to share your expertise only to be greeted with… crickets (aka silence).

The solution? Instead of going it alone, let others tell your story for you via online reviews. Independent, unbiased and peer-based, such third-party testimonials speak loudly to other aesthetic consumers and when coupled with a helpful website and compelling social content, represent the third leg of effective online marketing.

And, as new research from BrightLocal points out, online reviews are more important than ever. Among their findings:

  • 92% of consumers now read online reviews
  • 59% read them occasionally, 33% read them regularly
  • 68% say that positive reviews make them trust a local business more

Such numbers take on added significance for doctors for two reasons. First, when survey respondents were asked to name the business categories for which they read online reviews, 35% cited doctors and dentists, more than any of 19 categories except restaurants. And when asked for which business categories reputation mattered the most, doctors and dentists took the top spot (sharing it with restaurants) as 47% of respondents said reputation mattered the most when making a decision.

online reviews, reputation, doctor, dentist, trust

The numbers are even more compelling for aesthetic medicine. As part of a recent survey, members of the RealSelf community were asked what factors were critical for them to research before selecting a doctor to contact. In response, more than three-quarters (78%) said reviews, more than any other category, including board certification (65%), doctors’ before and after photos (63%) and photos posted by other patients (51%). And when they were asked, ‘Would you consider having a procedure with a doctor that didn’t have visible patient reviews?’, a resounding 87% said no.

Put it all together and there’s no escaping the fact that potential patients are using online reviews to gauge doctors’ reputations — and, it seems, they’re doing so surprisingly quickly. According to the BrightLocal study, 40% of respondents said they form an opinion of a business by reading just 1-3 reviews, a significant jump over the 29% that did in 2014. Sure, having more reviews is always better than having fewer; nevertheless, it’s telling that people believe they can determine whether or not a business can be trusted by reading so few.

Of course, no one would suggest that cosmetic surgery is an “impulse buy” — many potential patients take months or years to make a final decision — but the fact remains that people believe they can get a good sense of businesses’ trustworthiness increasingly quickly. And while board certification remains the gold standard for aesthetic medicine, many potential patients won’t even consider such practical matters until they’ve heard what others have to say.

Doctor Takeaway

Ignoring the importance of online reviews puts your reputation at risk

Once a potential patient has identified an aesthetic issue/need, she will more than likely turn to online reviews to provide a counterpoint to the more marketing-driven content she’s likely to find on your website and social profiles. Using — and, more importantly, trusting — what previous patients have to say, she’ll quickly reject or shortlist potential providers, effectively shortening the path from researching her options to acting on them and giving doctors with visible reviews a head start on the competition.

About Rob Lovitt

Rob Lovitt is a longtime writer and editor who believes every good business has a great story to tell. He has written for dozens of magazines and websites, including NBCnews.com, Expedia.com and the inflight magazines of Alaska, Horizon and Frontier airlines.

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