Medical and healthcare practice reviews are currently the third-most read review category online, following only restaurants and hotels.
In other words, online reviews have quickly become a popular way for prospective patients to learn about doctors.
In fact, according to a survey conducted by softwareadvice.com, “almost three-quarters (72 percent) of patients use online reviews as their first step in finding a new doctor, so a doctor’s online reputation is often the first impression for many patients.
Reviews have become so important to many physicians that there is actually a doctor in New York who is suing a woman over a bad review that she gave him.
That’s right, Dr. Joon Song, a gynecologist, is suing Michelle Levine for $1 million after Levine left a one-star review on Facebook that was posted on sites like Yelp, Zocdoc and Healthgrades.
Levine says she has already spent $20,000 defending herself against the suit.
The doctor’s lawyer told CBS News: “While everyone is entitled to their opinion, outright lies masquerading as reviews can inflict serious damage to a medical practice or small business.” For her part, Levine told CBS News that she doesn’t regret writing the review and will continue “to fight to the end if she has to.”
While this might be an extreme case, a 2017 study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine found that online provider reviews are stressful for about three-quarters of clinicians.
In that study, 46 percent of providers said they believe reviews put a strain on the patient-provider relationship and 33 percent said comments could harm patient care.
Could One Bad Review Damage My Career?
Studies show that positive reviews are now critical for building a positive online reputation for healthcare providers.
With positive reviews, patients are more easily convinced to contact a specific doctor for their healthcare needs. Positive reviews can help them cut short their research and make decisions faster and with greater confidence.
So do negative reviews have the opposite effect? While numerous negative reviews are certainly going to cause patients to stay away, research shows that a rare bad review may not be as bad as doctors’ fear.
According to that study from Software advice.com:
- 31% of patients will ignore a review that seems exaggerated
- 30% will disregard a review if the post author’s expectations seem unreasonable
- And 20% of patients will ignore an online review post if the doctor posted a thoughtful response
Actually, 65% of survey respondents said it’s at least moderately important for doctors to respond to negative online comments, if not very important.
That doesn’t mean doctors should attack the reviewer or respond immediately, emotionally and critically to a bad comment.
Instead, doctors should wait until they are calm and then take the negative comments as a learning experience, thank the reviewer and describe changes and improvements that are being made to mitigate the complaint, researchers say.
Here’s one more piece of good news involving negative reviews – they are rare.
Research shows that handling negative reviews isn’t as much of an issue as many physicians believe it is. The softwareadvice.com study indicates that only 7 percent of patients leave negative online comments.
One thing doctors can do to boost their online reputation is to build their base of positive reviews and to do that they need to get more satisfied patients to leave reviews.
What’s the best way to do that?
Ask them. And the best way to ask is to request a favor. It has been shown, experts say, that patients respond more positively when they are asked to do something as a favor.