healthcare marketingThe many and various “doctor review” sites seem to be as popular as the flu bug floating around the office. Doctors don’t like them and patients don’t use them, according to two recent surveys.

But here’s why healthcare marketing professionals and medical providers shouldn’t dismiss consumer rating and reviews.

First, from the physician point of view…

The headline declares Physicians Wary of Doctor Ratings, and the sentiment among physicians responding to an American College of Physician Executives (ACPE) is downright unflattering. They regard reviews as “irksome,” or worse.

The ACPE survey says most physician “leaders view online physician ratings as inaccurate, unreliable and not widely used by the patients they serve, [and they] view online reviews as little more than popularity contests. Complaints of sampling bias, invalid measurements of competency and frustration steered many respondents away from checking the rating sites.”

But despite this (unsurprising) sampling of physician distrust, two significant marketing considerations remain for doctors, hospitals and health systems:

  • The ACPE survey acknowledges that patient-centered care—and the empowered patient/consumer—will inescapably include some rating and/or review system. Review mechanisms can be fixed or improved, but will not be wished away.
  • From a broader perspective, other national surveys indicate that the majority of online physician reviews tend to be positive.

But, from the patient/consumer side…

A much larger and more comprehensive survey by the Pew Internet Project revealed that “healthcare reviews have not caught on among general consumers.” In fact, the percentage of Internet users who consulted or posted online reviews or rankings has dropped from 24 percent in 2010 to 18 percent in 2012.

While online consumer reviews consistently rank as popular activities (eight in ten users) for consumer products or services, “only about one in five Internet users have consulted online reviews and rankings of healthcare service providers and treatments.

“People are much less likely to post a review of a treatment, hospital, or clinician (three to four percent of internet users), compared to general‐interest items [where] 37 percent of internet users say they have rated a product, service, or person online and 32 percent have posted a comment or review online about product they bought or service they received.”

Nevertheless, online reviews continue to have an important voice. The Pew data indicates that:

  • Suburban Internet users between ages 30-64 and with higher levels of education were more likely to consult online reviews and rankings;
  • Those with an annual household income below $30,000 were less likely than all other income brackets to consult or post health‐related reviews and rankings online.

This profile suggests that, although online reviews and ratings are less popular, the demographics reflect a generally upscale and influential patient/user audience.

Read more about the ACPE study in this PE Journal article. And the Pew Internet report, Health Online 2013 (January 15, 2013) can be found here. We have a related post, Consumer Reports New Ratings of Doctors: It’s All About Patient Experience, here.

Lonnie Hirsch