Online reviews in healthcare are nothing new. In 2004 Yelp founder Jeremy Stoppelman was a Harvard Business School student exploring ideas for promising startups when he caught the flu. His online search for a doctor eventually led to the creation of Yelp Inc.
Both consumers and business owners have been slow to embrace the idea of reviews. There a probably a multitude of reasons for the hesitation.
- Uncharted territory – For both groups this is new territory and while some people embrace “new” others are loath to change.
- Look at me – Consumers are a little unsure about posting both positive and negative reviews so publicly. What if they post a negative review and then need to return to that particular healthcare provider?
- The good, the bad and the ugly – Business owners tend to fear asking a consumer for a review only to realize the review isn’t a happy one.
Who’s Looking and Why?
The ways reviews affect business have not been fully understood—yet. But what is clear is that the posting and researching of a business via reviews is increasing.
Approximately 72% of consumers surveyed said that they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, while 52% said that positive online reviews make them more likely to use a local business. (Local Consumer Review Survey 2012)
In “Scoring Healthcare: Navigating Customer Experience Ratings,” PwC found that 48 percent of 1,000 representative respondents said that they have read online reviews related to health care, such as: doctor ratings, hospital reviews, insurance company information, and pharmacy/medical device reviews. Of this 48 percent, 68 percent said that these reviews influenced their decision – and that they used the info to choose where to get health care.
Seven percent of Consumer Reports readers surveyed said they had plans to change hospitals after reading its recent hospital safety ratings story.
Reviews can function as a tie-breaker. All things considered equal, timely reviews and consumer feedback become an important—often decisive—ingredient.
Where Should I Be Online?
Good question, easy to answer, difficult to predict.
You want to be where people will find you.
Here are a few places where consumers may go to find reviews about your business.
- Angie’s List
- Google+ Local/Reviews
- Yahoo! Local Listings
You also want to make sure you have a system in place to not only find reviews that have been posted about your business, but what to do with them when you get them.
Should I Wait?
Online reviews are “word of mouth” recommendations spread digitally. You’re success rate is always much higher when you start and control (as much as possible) the conversation. Jumping in to defend your business or to provide information after the proverbial horse is out of the barn is never a good idea.