The Influence of Online Reviews in Healthcare

When most of us entered the eyecaer profession, we thought of healthcare as a part of the customer service industry, but yet something nuanced and separate at the same time.  In eyecare our patients do also happen to be customers (hopefully purchasing all their eyewear needs while in office), but we are very careful to call them patients because in our mind that is something different – something more elevated. The doctor to patient relationship is curated with respect and trust, where our patients believe in our prescriptions and advice because they respect our education and knowledge.

Today’s world? Doctor to patient relationships still matter of course, but the distinction between patient and customer is more blurred than ever.  To the average patient, the distinction doesn’t really exist at all.  A 2015 survey showed 54% of millennials “shop” for doctors online like they would for any other commodity purchase or restaurant recommendation.  What’s more, a whopping 84% of patients report that they use online reviews of a doctor to make their decision to schedule an appointment! And if you are thinking maybe patients are just reading up on the doctor a friend or family member recommended and using reviews to reassure themselves, the statistics show that’s just not the case. 77% of people report they use online reviews as their first step in choosing a provider.

Not only are patients actively using reviews to determine who to give their care to, search engines like Google heavily weight user-generated content like online reviews to determine the ranking for websites pinging specific search items.  If you are a doctor in Greenville, South Carolina and someone searches “eye doctor Greenville,” the doctor with more online reviews, and more positive reviews, will get the biggest boost to the algorithm that determines whose website gets that coveted number one spot.  Research shows that for every star a business averages on Yelp! reviews, there is an associated increase in business revenue of 5-9%.

So how do you encourage your patients to write more reviews (and preferably good ones).  Many software companies exist that offer ways to improve positive reviews, and this is how most of them work:

1. Patients are sent a short survey after their visit

2. Patients that give positive feedback are sent a link to Google Reviews or Yelp and asked if they would post their review online.  This one-click strategy improves the chance the patient will post their feelings online, and you’ve already insured it will be a good review!

3. If a patient gives a negative review, they aren’t sent a link to post their review online and instead the software pings the doctor’s office to call or handle the feedback internally.

This method ensures more good reviews are posted, and hopefully all bad reviews are kept offline.  Make the investment to generate more reviews for your office and reap the benefits of those first-page search engine returns and the influx of new patients who will schedule with your office!