A study in the Journal of American Medicine reports that patients are increasingly using online physician ratings. Therefore, medical reputation management for doctors is vital for ensuring your online reviews are accurate and positive.

In the survey, patients selected the importance of factors when choosing a physician. Not surprisingly, finding a doctor that accepts the right health insurance is very important to most (89%) of patients. A convenient office location and years of experience were also rated very important.

Though not as important as these other factors, patients rated doctor reputation highly. Three out of four patients indicated that a trusted group practice was at least somewhat important. Further, 85% of patients look for a doctor based on word of mouth from family and friends. Physician referrals are also influential, with 80% of patients rating these as somewhat or very important.

A physician’s rating on websites is also influential for patients choosing a primary care doctor. Nearly 60% consider a physician’s online reputation to be at least somewhat important.

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Why Physician Reputation Management is Important

According to the study’s lead author, Dr. David Hanauer, physician rating websites are growing in popularity. He expects that this trend will continue, for better or for worse.

We need to be aware that these sites are being used. I think there are still valid concerns whether these sites are trustworthy.

Dr. David Hanauer

The study also revealed that 65% of participants were aware of physician review sites such as Healthgrades.com, Vitals.com, and RateMDs.com. Most of the people who visited the sites said that the information they found was at least somewhat useful.

More importantly, patients are taking action based on doctor reviews. Over 1/3 of website subscribers indicated they chose a doctor based on a positive rating. Additionally, 37% decided against a doctor because they did not like their reviews.

Given these physician rating site statistics, it’s understandable that online reputation management services are on the rise. The vast majority of the reviews tend to be fair and positive. Still, there’s good reason to ask for positive reviews. After all, one bad review out of 5 is more damaging than one in 50.

Fake or Inaccurate Doctor Reviews

Doctor review websites are subject to the same problems as many similar sites, including fake reviews. Unfortunately, accuracy is critical for physician reviews because misinformation can have serious consequences.

If you pick a bad restaurant, you may not enjoy your meal. But if you pick a bad doctor, that may affect your health.

Hanauer suggests that doctors may need to develop a reliable rating system for their patients. Further, the American Medical Association (AMA) encourages patients not to put confidence in any anonymous reviews found online.

“Anonymous online opinions of physicians should be taken with a grain of salt, and should certainly not be a patient’s sole source of information when looking for a new physician,” said AMA president Dr. Ardis Dee Hoven.

Reputation Management for Doctors & Physician Reviews

As awareness and use of physician review sites rises, medical reputation management for doctors becomes more important. Some physicians forbid patients to use online review sites through a non-disclosure agreement. However, it’s best for doctors to take an open approach to their online reputation.

Physicians should see online reviews as an opportunity for growth, and encourage patients to leave positive reviews. A new patient that understands your strengths and flaws and chooses you with awareness of these factors is likely to be a patient you’ll enjoy working with.

How to build a positive online reputation

  • Sign up for physician review sites. Don’t wait for the reviews to come to you. Create a profile on major review sites, including Healthgrades and RateMDs. You’ll be able to provide the websites with accurate, up to date information, including your practice address, specialties, education, and awards.
  • Respond to reviews. Show patients that you truly care what they think of your service as a medical professional. Respond to negative reviews without offending patients who may have had a bad experience.
  • Address fake negative reviews. If someone left a fake complaint about your practice, you’ll want to take action to remove the bad Google review as soon as possible. While some websites may not be willing to help, others could side with you if you can prove the complaint was fabricated.
  • Consider negative feedback a gift. Hearing the truth hurts, especially if a review is not entirely fair or based on factors outside of your control. Still, negative reviews can help you shed light on missteps in your practice. Patients who complain about long wait times or trouble with filling prescriptions may help you better direct your office staff.
  • Ask patients to review you. Let patients know that you are proud of your work as a physician, and that you appreciate recommendations, both through word of mouth and online. Place links to physician review sites on your website and newsletters, allowing patients to see and contribute to your reviews online.

Physician review sites may not be as important to your practice as your education or experience as a doctor, but online reputation is set to have a growing influence on the medical industry. Embrace the future by developing a strong online reputation today for better patients tomorrow.

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