Most people believe what their peers say online about other businesses. According to a Nielsen survey, about 70 percent of consumers “completely” or “somewhat” trust consumer opinions posted online. That makes it the second most-trusted form of advertising, only behind direct recommendations from friends and family.

RatingsThese numbers tell you that consumer’s care are highly influenced by what others think and report about a business, product or service. That includes the world of healthcare. Word-of-mouth has now become the No. 1 influencer in making a healthcare-related decision, even ranking higher than physician advice.

How are people getting the word out? They’re going to the web – specifically, review sites like Yelp and Google Places. For a variety of reasons – such as confidentiality – many people aren’t reviewing and rating their doctors in detail as they might for a car or restaurant. But they are doing consumer research, shopping around and becoming more informed before making their healthcare decisions.

It’s essential that hospitals keep an eye on what people are saying about them on sites like Google Places and Yelp. Most of these sites allow businesses to claim their location, which allows for two-way communication and the opportunity to respond to reviews.

Whether you like it or not, people are going to talk about your business.