More Americans Using Healthcare Review Sites

November 22, 2014
Jared Kaltwasser

Forty-two percent of consumers now say they've used online healthcare reviews, up 68% from last year.

More and more Americans are using online review sites when making healthcare decisions, according to a new survey.

Forty-two percent of consumers now say they’ve used online healthcare reviews, up 68% from last year.

The survey was conducted by the practice management systems review site Software Advice.

Of those using review sites, 18% said they use online reviews “rarely;” 13% said “sometimes;” and 11% said they use the sites “often.” A majority — 58% – said they never use review sites, though the trend line suggests that number will continue to shrink.

Nearly half of those surveyed (44%) said they would consider using an out-of-network doctor if the doctor had better online reviews than in-network providers. A slightly larger number — 49% – said they weren’t willing to go out of their network for a better-reviewed physician.

In a commentary about the findings, Melissa McCormack, a researcher at Software Advice, said doctors can’t afford to ignore online reviews.

“Doctors should check online review sites to see if a listing for their practice already exists,” she said. “If it doesn’t, they should create one (often for free). Then they should make sure all information about their practice is up-to-date, highlighting how long they’ve been in practice and their certifications — since our research shows that information is particularly important to patients reading online reviews.”

As more and more patients use online reviews, the sites they trust are also changing. Last year, the website Yelp — which provides ratings for everything from restaurants to hair salons – was by far the most used site. This year, Yelp remained on top, but just barely. Twenty-seven percent of respondents said they consulted Yelp reviews the most. Healthcare-focused Healthgrades and RateMDs were close behind, with 26% each. Vitals and ZocDoc also made the list.

In general, Software Advice found the most sought-after information when patients visit review sites is quality of care (48%), followed by patient rating scores (45%), and overall patient experience (40%).

On the issue of care delivery, patients wanted to know how accurate a physician was (34%) and how well she or he listened (22%). Patients also checked out a practice’s administrative efficiency, rating wait times the most important factor (25%), followed by staff friendliness (22%), and ease of scheduling appointments (19%).

Interestingly, most people say positive reviews are more powerful than negative reviews. One-third of respondents (34%) said they disregard reviews if they seem exaggerated. Nearly 30% said they won’t listen to reviews if the author sounds unreasonable.

Meanwhile, 85% said they would be at least “moderately likely” to choose one doctor over another because of positive reviews.

McCormack said all this means physicians should be proactive about their reviews.

“Since Yelp, Healthgrades, and RateMDs are so widely used, doctors should ask existing patients to leave reviews for them on those sites,” she said. “With so many patients looking for a new doctor via review sites, a presence there could help doctors attract patients who otherwise wouldn’t have found them.”

The survey included responses from 4,620 patients in the US.

Graphics courtesy of Software Advice.


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