Online Patient Reviews: Power, Influence and Muscle to Grow Even Bigger

January 5, 2014
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checklist for excellence and successIf you thought that online patient review sites were important, you’d be right. But new survey data reveals their muscle has tons of potential to grow.

checklist for excellence and successIf you thought that online patient review sites were important, you’d be right. But new survey data reveals their muscle has tons of potential to grow.

Unlike a few years ago, the research power of the Internet has transformed many patients into informed and empowered consumers. Looking for online information is often the first step in researching (and ultimately selecting) a doctor—based on quality of care, experience and even wait times.

Marketing savvy physicians and healthcare communicators monitor this newfound “digital sway” and diligently put forward their own Internet marketing to inform the public, attract patients and protect and extend their reputation.

But what’s surprising is that only one in four patients use online reviews to research doctors, according to a recent survey of over 4,500 US patients by Software Advice. And, for as influential as patient reviews have become, this data suggests that they have a frightening amount of room to get even bigger.

The relatively younger age groups that currently use online reviews also suggests potential for growth. In this survey, patients age 25 to 34 (31%) and 35 to 44 (29%) account for the largest patient/user blocks. It seems reasonable to conclude that, as the population ages, younger and Internet reliant patients will continue to take a place in these ranks.

Most Popular is not the same as Most Trusted…

There are dozens of doctor review sites, but HealthGrades (43%) and Yelp (34%) were cited in this survey as being the first to be used. But as a matter of “most trusted” it was—perhaps surprisingly—Yelp (44%) ahead of HealthGrades (31%).

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Reviews don’t pull patients away from their insurance network…

Even when doctor reviews are stellar, only one in four of insured patients are persuaded to visit a doctor outside of their insurance network. “That means good reviews may just help you attract patients even if they’re not in a network you’re partnered with,” observes Software Advice. “But in a face-off, insurance networks still beat out online reviews.”

Conclusions…

“Having a strong presence on online review sites can help you attract new patients, and in some cases even retain existing patients,” concludes, in part, the Software Advice study, How Your Patients Are Using Online Reviews. We would add that the importance and influence of patient review has a ton of space to grow in the future with Internet informed and empowered patients.