Is it Time to Review Your View of Reviews?

J.K. Simmons has it exactly right in those commercials for Farmers Insurance: What you don’t know can hurt you. And while Peter Parker’s editor and Juno’s dad is talking about things like auto and homeowners insurance, the same is true about online reviews. Doctors who dismiss patient reviews run the risk of doing long-term harm to their practice.

Smart doctors, on the other hand, recognize that online reviews are no longer a ‘nice to have’ but rather a ‘need to have,’ a point that was compellingly made in a recent article in The Wall Street Journal. Among the points the story makes:

Patients rely on reviews when choosing providers: A recent study at the University of Michigan showed that about 25% of U.S. adults consulted online physician-rating sites, and more than a third of them went to a physician or avoided one based on the ratings.

No reviews are worse than the occasional bad review: The Journal quotes one patient who says, “The ones that are negative I always take with a grain of salt.” More tellingly, perhaps, he also says, “If no one is reviewing them, then I don’t feel like they are keeping up with the times, which says something about them.”

Most reviews are positive: According to a 2012 study at the University of Maryland, nearly half of the physicians surveyed got a perfect ranking. “We found quite a striking difference between what physicians perceive about their ratings and what patients actually say about their doctors,” lead author Guodong (Gordon) Gao told the Journal.

Put the above together and it’s not hard to see why smart doctors are updating their views of online reviews, seeing them, not as something to fear or avoid, but rather, a tool that can be used to improve service and generate new business.

Consider the case of Dr. Gregg DeNicola, chief executive of a family-medicine practice in Orange County, Calif., who said the group initially ignored online reviews because many of the reviews were negative.

“First we did what anyone would do, we just ignored it,” Dr. DeNicola told the Journal. “Then new patients were actually canceling appointments because of reviews and we realized this could be more serious than we thought.”

Subsequently, the practice decided to embrace reviews, asking patients to relate their experiences, encouraging them to post them on review sites and responding quickly to negative ones. Doing so, says DeNicola, has proven a boon to the business as new patients now come to the practice because of positive online reviews: “When we decided to quit ignoring it and embraced it, it totally changed the game.”

Doctor Takeaway

Doctors who dismiss online reviews are missing the boat — and potential new business

In these socially connected times, few platforms carry more weight than reviews from other patients and while more doctors are beginning to embrace the concept, it’s still challenging for some. Fortunately for aesthetic professionals, it doesn’t have to be thanks to tools like Patient Engage from RealSelf, which streamlines the process of requesting reviews, simplifies posting them online and lets doctors focus on providing care rather than managing marketing campaigns.

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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