By Kathy Roy Gaughran
Senior Marketing Strategist
Real-world marketing stories come to my attention with increasing regularity. And, frequently, they reinforce the strategic importance and positive benefits of online reviews by patients.
Prospective patients are doing their homework. As many as 85 percent of patients are choosing doctors based on, or assisted by, online reviews, according to the frequently cited study by Software Advice, a company that reviews practice management systems. It’s common for a medical practice to report: “Just this week, several new patients told us they had read all the reviews, and that they wanted to make an appointment with the best practice available.”
The new front door for hospitals and medical practices is digital. What prospective patients find about you online—ratings, reviews, social comments and the like—are an imperative slice of your marketing plan.
In addition to connecting with a new doctor or medical facility, patients also turn to online reviews to validate their healthcare purchase decisions or referral. An individual that I know, for example, had chosen an oral surgeon for dental implants. And, although the procedure was already scheduled, this person still explored the YELP reviews and comments for bad outcomes.
They confessed that the secret agenda here was also to find an excuse to back out of the surgery. In this instance, the comments were positive, and that confirmed the initial provider selection, PLUS they inspired a new resolve to keep the appointment for the scheduled procedure.
The popular physician/practice review and rating sites—such as HealthGrades, Vitals, Yelp, ZocDoc and many others—play a significant role in medical practice marketing. Although many doctors will quickly observe that it’s not a perfect system, these sites have persuasive power with the consumer-patient audience.
What’s more, the use of Amazon (and other online retailers) has trained consumers to shop using “stars.” Buyers look for five-star ratings along with the number of reviews.
Shoppers recognize that a five-star rating based on only three reviews is not nearly as strong as a 4.5 score based on 1,000 reviews. In shaping their attitudes, a typical online (retail) buyer often considers four or more reviews. Unfortunately, physician ratings are often based on less than three reviews.
For more on this topic and how to integrate online reviews sites in your medical practice or hospital marketing plan, read: Physician Ratings Sites: Love, Hate, But Never Ignore and Fight, Flight or Listen: 3 Ways to Deal with Physician Reviews & Negative Patient Comments.