When 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.