The Pros and Cons of Healthgrades, RateMDs, Vitals and YelpWhen it comes to reputation management, online review sites can make or break a prospective patient’s decision to make an appointment (or not). One thing is for sure: online reviews are here to stay. And the stats don’t lie:

  • 93% of local buyers use reviews to determine if a local business is good or bad
  • A study conducted by the University of Michigan found that 59% of people consider those sites “somewhat important” when choosing a doctor
  • Almost 75% of patients use online reviews as their first step in finding a new doctor
  • Patients now prefer online reviews to government ratings when choosing a doctor

The reputation of your practice or physician can be greatly impacted by the likes of Healthgrades, RateMDs, Vitals, and Yelp. What people are saying about your practice can have a lasting effect in a matter of seconds; and, unfortunately, there is nothing stopping somebody from ‘venting’ anonymously if a doctor on your staff had a bad day. Even if there may be no “good” reason for a bad online review, oftentimes, the review is on there to stay, despite your practice’s strongest protests and appeals.

Therefore, it is vital to claim and properly manage your profiles on these sites to optimize your reputation management. Proper handling of these sites can protect your practice or physicians from fraudulent users claiming your profiles while improving your search engine optimization (SEO) and generating new business for your practice.

The four largest sites for online reputation management in healthcare are Healthgrades, RateMDs, Vitals and Yelp. In fact, in a recent study, Yelp and Healthgrades proved to be the two most important sites for healthcare professionals. Each site, like most things, has positives and negatives.

Below is a brief ‘pros and cons’ guide to Healthgrades, RateMDs, Vitals and Yelp.


Healthgrades is an online database of doctors, dentists, and hospitals that has over 100 million users and has amassed data on more than three million U.S. healthcare providers. When a patient searches Google for your practice, Healthgrades will likely show up on the first page.

On Healthgrades, potential patients can search by doctor name, office name, specialty, condition or procedure. While Healthgrades creates physicians’ profiles based on information from government and commercially available services, physicians can claim and edit these profiles.

Once a profile is claimed, you will have the ability to add photos, age, gender, information about specialties, a physician’s background such as when they graduated and information on scheduling appointments. You can claim your practice’s profile, but the main focus is on individuals.

On Healthgrades, patients can complete patient satisfaction surveys about a practice or physician. The surveys evaluate the office and staff, wait time, experience with the doctor and likelihood of recommending the doctor to family and friends.

Pros: Healthgrades is very user-friendly for patients. It doesn’t ask patients to answer questions. Instead, they simply complete a survey. If you have a large number of physicians in your office, you can contact the support center and submit a spreadsheet with your physicians’ information. The support center will then work to update all of the data for you without a fee. Healthgrades will also send physicians personalized, printed postcards with a URL to their profile that can be given to patients.

Cons: Although physicians can post a general response to patient surveys completed, they cannot reply individually to lowly-graded surveys.


Initially launched in 2004, RateMDs includes over one million doctor profiles and has over two million posted reviews. It was one of the first rating sites for physicians but has recently undergone a major redesign, upgrading the look and feature-set to fall more in line with Vitals and Healthgrades. According to the website, more than 100 million potential patients use RateMDs for information before making important health care decisions.

Along with the website redesign, RateMDs has added more requirements for physicians to claim their profiles. To claim a profile, you will need the physician’s driver’s license no or a billing statement (a major pain).

RateMDs allows patients to rate physicians as well as their staff, punctuality, helpfulness, and knowledge. They are also able to leave personal comments about their experience, and they can do this anonymously.

When patients search for a physician by area, they will be provided with the 200 top-ranked physicians in that region. In order to get closer to the top, physicians need more reviews that have higher rankings.

Pros: If you can prove a fraudulent review was posted, RateMDs will take the review down. RateMDs also adds awards to your physician’s profile when they repeatedly receive good reviews. Also, doctors can choose to pay a monthly fee which gives them the ability to hide up to three comments, place banner advertisements on the profiles of other doctors and receive electronic appointment requests from patients.

Cons: The website recently underwent a complete change, so if you claimed your physician(s) profiles before, you might have to do it again. You don’t have the option to merely remove reviews, and if you need to do so, you must contact their support team. If physicians don’t choose to pay a monthly fee, they will probably have the advertising banners of other doctors shown prominently on their profiles.


Similar to Healthgrades and RateMDs, Vitals is an online database of medical professionals where patients can search for healthcare options based on specialty, doctor, or condition. Filters can be applied for accepted insurance and location.

Vitals also has advertising on its site. Large hospital groups purchase these advertising spots, and they will show up next to your reviews. These ads may confuse patients and lure them away from your practice listings.

It is free for physicians to claim their profile on Vitals, but Vitals offers “enhanced” options for profiles when a fee is paid. Reviews are compiled with information such as wait time, staff, bedside manner, and promptness. Patients can leave personalized messages about their experience, and they can also leave reviews anonymously. However, Vitals doesn’t allow reviews that aren’t constructive.

Pros: Vitals will likely show up on the first page of a Google search, which is beneficial if you have high ratings. Physicians can measure the performance of their providers and receive analytics about their profile. They can also be notified when they’ve been rated.

Cons: As mentioned in the pros, Vitals will likely show up on the first page of a Google search, which can have a negative effect if you have a low rating. While Vitals filters excessively negative reviews with no true standing, the anonymity granted to patients can sometimes be abused.


Yelp is the most trusted of online review sites and the fastest growing. It also ranks highly on a Google search. On Yelp, users create reviews for almost anything including restaurants, retail stores, and doctors. Patients rate their experience out of five stars and can write a personal review that can be shared with friends or random people. Physicians can respond to these reviews either publicly or privately once a profile is claimed.

Healthcare providers can set up their own profiles on Yelp, allowing them to add photos and respond to users’ reviews. It is important to post accurate information such as the address, phone number, and business hours. Once a profile is created, physicians can access metrics about their profile including user views, user actions, and Yelp ad clicks.

Pros: Yelp allows businesses to respond publicly and privately to reviews. Reviews that Yelp believes to be untrustworthy are filtered and, although still accessible, don’t affect your rankings.

Cons: If your profile is fraudulently claimed, Yelp wants money to straighten the problem out. Yelp is also the most challenging site to claim a profile on because it requires a telephone call, an access code, and a fast turnaround. It also limits the number of claims you can make per day unless you pay Yelp to help you. Negative reviews cannot be removed unless a formal request is made to their support staff (results may vary). Reviews show up based on a complicated algorithm. This means that a review left by a first-time user, even if it’s positive, may not show up, and sometimes reviews disappear if they are not considered an avid Yelp user.

What Do You Think About Reputation Management?

Do you have a preferred online physician rating site for your practice? Let us know what you think on Twitter at

And if you have listings on Yelp or Google you would like to claim, or if you’ve received reviews you’d like to respond to diplomatically and strategically, we can help.

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