Online Patient Reviews: Helpful or Harmful?
The days of the Yellow Pages are long gone. When looking for a new medical provider, just like a restaurant, hairstylist or even a good handy man, we can simply jump onto one of the many popular search engines. Now, however, we not only have the world at our finger tips, we can also post reviews directly online for all to see. This includes reviews of medical providers.
I recently found myself on a website that showed candid reviews by real patients from our office. Patients post their names and some even post photographs. It is quite personal, to say the least. It was even a bit nerve racking to read for the first time. Fortunately, our reviews were pleasant, with only a couple of constructive criticisms among the majority of praise.
My concern with such sites is that literally anyone can go on and write reviews. Who is to say that the person is an actual patient? There are a lot of unprofessional, not to mention false, things people could post that could affect your reputation and practice. How are these regulated? And do sites exist that are sponsored by highly rated physicians?
A few sites are taking this to the next level and verifying that the patient was seen (because the site makes appointments, there is communication with the office that the patient was seen, adding to the validity of the review). I can see why these sites are popular for patients. They provide firsthand experiences and recommendations based on patients' experiences with an office. Just like this is popular for cosmetics and electronics, it is becoming increasingly popular for the medical field.
I must admit that since I learned of such websites in the last few years, I have even used them in my own personal search for physicians, salons, restaurants, etc. I think it helps us stay on our toes knowing reviews could be written so candidly by patients. You truly want to have your office and patient care at its very best. My advice is just to be aware that these sites exist and certainly be wary of everything you read, since some patients could "vent" on such blogs or review forums or not actually be a patient at all. Take the information for what it is worth and if it helps you in making a decision about visiting an office, then it is useful for providers and patients alike.
What are your opinions about online healthcare reviews? Do you think this is harmful to providers or rather useful to patients? I'd love your feedback.