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How do patients use online reviews

Just over two years ago we published a survey of our own data on how patients are using the top review sites for posting reviews.  Our goal was to determine which of the many review sites were actually receiving patient reviews and which sites seemed to have little traffic.   Two years ago, Healthgrades, Insider Pages, and Vitals were the clear leaders in quantity of patient reviews/ratings.  In our own analysis we differentiated between reviews and ratings using this criteria.

For our use we consider ratings to be a points or star system where the patient “rates” the doctor 1-5 or rates out of 5 stars.  And reviews are where the patient can actually share opinions by writing an actual “review”

Our criteria is not necessarily an industry standard but in our analysis we appreciated the differentiation.  Last week Melissa McCormack with conducted her own analysis of the patient reviews ecosystem.

The key findings from Melissa’s survey of 4,515 patients in the U.S. are:

  1. Healthgrades is the most popular online review site, but Yelp is the most trusted.
  2. Patients are most likely to use online reviews as a first step in finding a new doctor.
  3. Patients using online reviews are primarily seeking information related to the accuracy of diagnoses, physicians’ years of experience and wait times.

Healthgrades still the leader

So after 2 years, Healthgrades is still the clear leader in reviews/ratings.   With Yelp making the largest gains.  In our analysis 2 years ago Yelp was at the bottom of the pack.

Online review site are a patients first step in finding a new doctor

With the rise of smartphone usage over the past 5 years, 2/3 of Americans now carry a smartphone.  This means that 2/3 of Americans have constant access to the Google search interface throughout their day.  More and more consumers turn to Google search as their information source.  We search for restaurants, recipes, contractors, medical information and not surprisingly doctors.  From Melissa McCormack:

We asked patients using online review sites how they use reviews to research doctors. The majority (62 percent) use online reviews as a first step to find a new doctor. 19 percent use online reviews to validate the choice of a doctor they’ve tentatively selected before making an appointment. And another 19 percent use online reviews to evaluate an existing doctor.

In our rankings analysis we see Yelp, Healthgrades and Vitals continuing the raking in the top 10 spots for most Google searches for doctor names.  Whether patients are looking for the review sites or not, the review sites are presented to them in nearly all cases when they are researching for a doctor.  It is therefore no surprise that the review sites are increasingly becoming a critical part of the patient decision when choosing a new doctor.

If you haven’t read Melissa’s full report yet, I strongly recommend you do so.  And if you aren’t tracking your patient reviews yet, sign up today with our free reviews tracking tool.

I will be speaking on this exact topic at the MMGMA Winter Conference this coming March.  If you happen to be in the Twin Cities at the time, I’d love to see you there.


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About Marc
Marc Ohmann is president of Digital Solutions, Inc in Minneapolis. Digital Solutions is the company behind the MDWebPro blog and tool set. Marc was a computer science and engineering student at the University of Minnesota in 1999 when he started Digital Solutions. Marc, now a husband and father of 3, greatly enjoys the clients and creativity he is involved in each day through Digital Solutions. Follow Marc on Twitter @marcohmann and @MDWebPro and also on Google Plus

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