Earlier this year, physician communications specialist Ron Harman King offered several suggestions to help physicians boost their online ratings, given that patients can form impressions about a practice from what they read on the internet. MedPage Today reached out to several doctors for their perspective on online ratings and whether they strive to improve them in their own practice.
Do you pay attention to your online ratings, and if so, how frequently do you check on them?
Kenneth Lin, MD, MPH, Georgetown University: I pay attention to online ratings from verified patients (for me, this would be either on my profile page on the Medstar website, or on ZocDoc where patients can also make appointments to see me). I don’t pay attention to ratings from random health rating sites where there’s no evidence that the patient even saw me (especially since I’m not the only Dr. Kenneth Lin who practices outpatient medicine in my area). I would say that I check these once a month on average, whenever I think about it (not on a scheduled basis).
Andrew T. Pavia, MD, FAAP, University of Utah: I check on them very rarely and do not take too much notice.
Thomas L. Schwenk, MD, University of Nevada in Reno: I answered based on my prior practice at the University of Michigan, and the fact that I would answer the same now if I was more actively practicing. I do not pay attention to my reviews, nor do I ever check them. The unselected and skewed nature of the patients who post such reviews makes it impossible to know what to make of them. Remember the well-known phenomenon that unhappy customers or clients tell 11 people about their unhappiness, and happy customers or clients only tell 3 about their satisfaction.
If you happen to see a negative review of you or your practice, how do you handle it?
Lin: I don’t do anything with a single negative review, especially if I can’t verify that it’s actually from one of my patients. However, if I saw a pattern of several negative reviews, I would speak with our practice manager about addressing the general complaint/situation (e.g., waiting too long, rude staff, not returning phone calls, etc.).
Pavia: We have not had negative online comments to my knowledge, but I would see them as an opportunity to understand the issues and improve if necessary.
Schwenk: Were I to see a negative review, I would not respond. It is impossible to not appear defensive, unless, I suppose there was some clear error of fact or something that is so obviously wrong as to require a response. I am not sure what that would be exactly.
Do you take steps to improve your ratings, and if so, what are your key strategies (i.e., asking all patients to leave a review)?
Lin: I don’t try to artificially inflate my ratings by asking patients to leave good reviews. Ultimately, what leads to great ratings is providing great care — listening closely to patients, being sure to thoroughly address their concerns, and make sure that they leave the visit feeling that they’ve been heard and cared for.
Schwenk: I am old-fashioned and believe that the way a physician builds a practice is still one patient at a time by word-of-mouth. I am sure some patients make decisions based on online reviews, but I have little control over those compared to the control I have over delivering high-quality care and value to patients that I see face-to-face.
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