How Does One Deal With Physician Rating Sites?

It seems that every couple of months, I hear a story about how a group of doctors that are trying to stifle patient’s ability to post negative comments online.

The online community of course strongly opposes the notion of giving patients “gag orders.” People argue that if one can rate their local restaurant or mechanic shop, then why can’t patients rate physician and their offices.

I’ve given doctor’s rating sites a lot of thought and I do have a lot of issues with them.

However, I also think they are an important factor in our (transparent) Web2.0 world and by becoming aware of them, we can become better “service providers.” Not to mention these sites are not going away any time soon, so it is in our best interest to learn how to manage negative online criticism.

But, how should one deal with negative online comments about our practice or our doctors’ ?

Glad you asked.

I believe that the secret to this challenge is to be anticipatory and taking charge of the situation. In other words, plan ahead.

But how?

Glad you asked.

Build an Online Presence

The important lesson here is to establish an online presence that lends credibility before one needs it. Here is an example.

Practice A: Let’s say a patient/parent starts to research [pediatricians] online and they come across a practice located nearby their home. The link takes them to a single negative remark someone wrote about Practice A’s doc on one of the physician rating sites. The parent then puts the doctor’s name into Google search and nothing else comes up other than the practice’s static webpage… nothing remarkable about it.

Practice B: The patient/parent finds another pediatrician with two negative online comments. The parent googles the names of the doc’s and finds that the doc’s have an interactive website with an active blog. The blog shows meaningful and interesting post about the practice, the specialty and other things that hold her attention. The parent finds multiple comments on the blog from satisfied and grateful parents.

Practice B’s website also has a Facebook fan page. The patient/parent clicks on the link that takes her to the practice’s fan page where there are many positive engagements between the patients and the practice. The parent notices all the satisfied parents that have taken the time to thank the doctors and their staff for their wonderful service, attention, understanding, etc.

Now, assuming both practice are equal, which one is perceived to be the better practice? I believe Practice B is the winner because despite the fact they had a couple of negative comments, their online presence far outweighed the negative criticism.

Having an online presence does three things: 1) It allows the practice to engage patient outside of the practice which is appealing to parents; 2) It creates a sense of community which shows what the practice is about; 3) It gives parents/patients a platform to share their positive experience about the practice; which is critical in the context of potential patients/parents evaluating one’s practice from online reviews.

Asking for it

Instead of prohibiting patients with gag orders, encourage happy patients to post positive comments online.

“But we can’t ask for people to do this on our behalf, can we?”

I’ve seen signs in medical practices that read, “The greatest compliment you can give our practice is a referral.” In essence, the practice is requesting people to refer them patients point blank. With this in mind, a medical practice could ask happy patient/parents to submit positive reviews online.

I’m sure in your practice, you have families that absolutely LOVE your practice and your doc’s. Imagine if only half of them took the time to post positive comments online. The positive comments would completely dominate the search results for someone trying to find out information about your practice. But they won’t do it unless you ask them.

In our practice, we took these steps in an effort to create a positive digital footprint, so to speak. Although our online presence was not created with the single intent of leave a positive digital trail, we believe however, that leaving a positive digital trail goes a long way in balancing out a few negative comments online.

What are your thoughts about physician rating sites? Are they good? Bad? Do you have any other ideas about how to manage them?

10 thoughts on “How Does One Deal With Physician Rating Sites?”

  1. Good post, we BTW use patientsurvey.com for keeping a tab on patient feedback. Works out well. Makes the staff also think twice about how they treat patients. Plus, all staff wears a name tag just to make sure they know patients can see who the person is.

    Also, this is helping out to let go staff who are not doing a great job. What better way to document something that is provided to you by patients themselves.

    Last but not least, we all want to know if the patient was happy with the treatment he / she received from our clinics. That is one factor that is also logged through the online patient surveys.

    Regards

  2. Hi. I just wanted to let you know that some parts of your site are difficult to read for me, as I’m color blind. I am afflicted by deuteranopia, however there are more varieties of color blindness which will also get issues. I can understand the largest part of the website Okay, and the areas I have problems with I am able to read by using a special browser. All the same, it’d be cool if you would remember us color-blind folk when doing the next site revamp. Thank you.

    1. Vilma,

      Thank you for the heads up. What should I consider to accommodate someone with your condition? I use a free template from WordPress for my blog. I selected it because it was a clean, not flashy or with too many distractions.

      Brandon

  3. Great article. Couldn’t agree more about the value of “leaving a positive digital trail” for patients and prospective patients to follow. We just published an article at HCPLive.com on this very topic, and the author also recommended that practices be proactive by creating a robust website and using social media tools to offer multiple online points of engagement for patients.

    The article also talked a bit about the use of contracts that legally prevent patients from commenting about the practice online. I think that ultimately nothing good can come from such a draconian approach, but I also wonder if maybe we’re all overestimating the power and effect of negative comments at a rating site (especially if there’s only one comment). Have you seen any data on how much weight patients give to such ratings and how big a role these sites play in patients’ search for physician info?

    1. haven’ seen any real data, but , around here at least (eastern KY) the internet rating sites are fragmented and pretty stale. Lots of mis-information, old data, doctors no longer in practice, etc.

      We’ve had mostly positive reviews (of the few in existance), an occasional negative one (always from the entitled deadbeats who refuse to pay copays, deductibles, co-insurance, etc.) 🙁

      I personally believe that internet ratings are useless thus far in this region, especially since ALL of the hospitals claim to be #1 according to the rating gurus (Healthgrades, Solucient, etc. blah blah) as well as trumpeting THEIR doctors in the highest grossing specialties (cardiac, cancer, ortho).

      Younger practices may need good inet reviews, but for us, our word of mouth seems to be more than sufficient, at least until some sort of structure and moderation is imposed on said rating venues.

      John Lichtenberger
      Practice Manager

      Professional Pediatrics

    2. Thank you for the comment.

      I have not seen any data regarding the effectiveness of physician rating sites.

      I while back though, I did come across a NEJM article titled, Googling Ourselves — What Physicians Can Learn from Online Rating Sites – that gives an interesting perspective.

      The author concludes by saying, “Whether publicly available performance evaluations will actually result in better care and service for patients or just more bureaucracy and wasted energy remains to be seen.”

      Check out the article: http://content.nejm.org/cgi/content/full/362/1/6

      Brandon

  4. Elizabeth,

    You’re right. We need to make it easier for people to post positive comments. It is one thing to ask for the feedback, but lots of people don’t necessarily know where to write it or as you mention, forget once they leave the practice.

    And if people have to jump through hoops, dig around the web, sign up for all kinds of services, then it will be less likely anybody will write something.

    You gave me something to think about.

    Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to write a comment.

    Brandon

  5. Agreed 100%! Pre-emptive online health literacy extends to personal brand management too. It’s hard to find out about all of the good that particular physicians have done just by word of mouth, so to some extent they should take responsibility for putting up a ‘portfolio’ or at least appear more accessible online.

    I’d also actually quite like to see my doctors add a computer kiosk or something to the waiting area where I could go to leave a review if I felt so inclined. Like a guestbook at a museum…except electronic. Even if I have a really good experience, it’s easy to forget to do the rating, so that would be convenient.

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