BHA - How Patients Use Online Reviews

Wednesday 02 May 2018 by Graciela Rojas


by: Gaby Loria

Internet reviews sites, such as Yelp and Healthgrades and now BHA, have a growing influence on doctors’ reputations and ability to attract new patients. We’ve conducted surveys in the past showing how, why and when patients use reviews sites.

This year, we revisit the topic with fresh data on how patients use online reviews.

We’ll also provide examples of reputation management software solutions and tips that can help physicians manage their online presence while keeping patients happy and healthy.


Key Findings

  • A healthy online presence is essential, as this year’s findings showed that eighty-two percent of patients who responded to our survey use online reviews to evaluate physicians.
  • Almost three-quarters (72 percent) of patients use online reviews as their first step in finding a new doctor, so your online reputation is often a first impression for many patients.
  • A good review history can bring out-of-network patients to your practice, as evidenced by the fact that nearly half of respondents (48 percent) would go out of their insurance network for a doctor with favorable reviews.
  • Only 7 percent of patients leave “very negative” or “somewhat negative” feedback on reviews sites, so the majority of reviews will be neutral or positive and easier to engage with.
  • Sixty-five percent of respondents feel it’s “very” or “moderately important” for doctors to respond to online reviews.

Most Patients Use Online Reviews

To collect the data for this report, we conducted a survey of U.S. patients, asking them about their use of online reviews sites. It turns out that these sites are growing in popularity.

82 percent of patients surveyed consult a reviews website with some frequency to view or post comments and ratings of healthcare staff.

In fact, the number of patients who report using reviews sites has grown over the years of this survey from 25 percent back in 2013.

Laura M. Sams, former social media and reputation management consultant for the Carilion Clinic in Virginia, says the implications of this finding are wide-ranging.



Frequency With Which Patients Use Reviews Sites
patients using review sites pie graph


This data suggests patients are finding a great deal of value in online reviews of medical practices. What’s more, this dynamic can make or break a medical practice’s online reputation. It’s not just that so many patients are using reviews—it’s that those reviews are often the first thing patients see.

Most Patients Use Online Reviews as a First Step

A good online reputation is important for more than just visibility…

Most patients surveyed use online reviews as a determining factor for choosing a new doctor.

Seventy-two percent of respondents report using online reviews as a first step to seeking a provider, while 19 percent use them to validate the choice of a doctor they’ve tentatively selected.


When Patients Use Online Reviews Sites
scenarios when patients use online reviews sites


These results show that online reviews do play a role in patient retention. But it’s clear that most patients are consulting reviews to decide whether they should make a first appointment with a provider.

The good news for providers? This means they can leverage reviews sites as marketing channels, and use them to grow their patient population.

Having this data at their fingertips allows medical professionals to identify patient engagement trends. This offers greater insight on which channels new patients are using to find providers. It also reflects how current patients are interacting with the practice (e.g., via phone, email or patient portal).

Positive Reviews Can Persuade Patients to Go Out-of-Network

The next point provides further evidence for the influential nature of online reviews sites.

Nearly half of respondents (48 percent) say they would consider going to an out-of-network doctor if their reviews were better than those of an in-network doctor.


Willingness to Go Out-of-Network for Better Reviewed Doctor


willingness to opt for new and better reviewed doctor


What’s more, Sams predicts the percentage of patients willing to go out-of-network in pursuit of more positive reviews will only continue to grow.

“This will be a trend,” she says. “Patients want good experiences, and they want to feel like their time and money is being used appropriately when it comes to healthcare.”

This finding is especially interesting, because out-of-pocket costs are much more expensive for patients whose physicians aren’t covered by insurance.

For example, a study by industry trade group America’s Health Insurance Plans found the average out-of-network charge for a neck/spine disk surgery was nearly 640 percent higher than the price paid by Medicare.

A significant percentage of patients are willing to overlook important factors, such as cost and convenience, in favor of positive online reviews when choosing a new healthcare provider.

Most Patients Post Positive or Neutral Reviews Online

Next, we asked respondents what kind of online reviews they typically write about a doctor.

A combined 52 percent of patients report leaving “very positive” or “somewhat positive” feedback, while 11 percent write “neutral” reviews.

Only 7 percent of respondents write “very” or “somewhat negative” reviews. Finally, 30 percent tell us they’ve never written an online review about a healthcare provider.

Type of Online Review Patients Typically Post

type of online review patients typically post


Physician concerns about negative reviews are common across all medical specialties. The fact that so many patients are sharing positive experiences online, rather than focusing on the negative ones, is very encouraging—and may be surprising to some. Indeed, this data suggests bad reviews don’t actually happen very often.

What’s more, software can help providers capture some of this positive feedback from patients. Sams says Carilion Clinic’s patient feedback management software, Binary Health Analytics, has made it easier for clinicians get kudos for delivering excellent care.

“Since beginning our [software] program, we’ve been pleased to see so many positive reviews,” says Sams, “and [the system has] helped us share these internally with staff.”

Our survey results also indicate that a significant percentage of patients (30 percent) could be writing reviews, but aren’t.

Simple Interact, a stand-alone patient relationship solution that can be integrated with various practice management systems, provides an example of how practices can automate the process of recruiting reviews.

After each office visit, the software can send patients a short survey to take on their mobile device. After filling out this survey, patients are given links to online reviews sites.

Depending on the type of mobile device they have (e.g., iPhone or Android), customized instructions and links to specific reviews platforms (e.g., Google Plus or Facebook) are provided.


mobile screenshots of simple interact


Mobile screenshots of Simple Interact


Ravi Kalidindi, CEO of Simple Interact, discusses a business that has done this successfully:

Example: Dermatology practice Sonoma Skin Works in Frisco, Texas has accumulated 177 positive reviews on Google Plus, Yelp, Healthgrades, Vitals and Facebook since implementing the software.


Furthermore, 48 percent of the practice’s new patient acquisition during 2015 was due to its online reputation. Staff calculated this figure by having patients fill out digitized intake forms asking how they heard about the dermatology center.

Most Patients Feel Doctors Should Respond to Negative Reviews

Unfortunately, negative reviews do happen sometimes—and many physicians have difficulty deciding how to handle them. In light of this, we asked patients whether they think it’s important for doctors to respond to negative comments on reviews websites.

The majority of respondents (65 percent) feel it’s “very” or “moderately important” for doctors to post a response.

Only 27 percent believe it’s “minimally” or “not important,” and 8 percent don’t have an opinion either way.


Importance of Doctors Responding to Bad Reviews
frequency with which patients use reviews sites


By some estimates, there are 60 reviews websites focused on healthcare in the U.S. alone. Since patients value responses to negative reviews, Sams recommends practices invest in dedicated software to keep up with all these platforms, and designate or hire a member of their staff to manage online reputation.

“It’s my job to monitor these review sites daily, identify trends and escalate a review or rating to the appropriate people when necessary,” she says.

Sams receives email and text alerts when a negative review comes in, allowing her to address any issues remotely in an efficient, organized manner.

She adds that Carilion Clinic will soon be using its patient feedback management software to launch patient satisfaction surveys, as well. This will enable her team to address patient concerns before they show up on an online reviews site.

Not every reviews website allows doctors to respond to negative comments. However, practices should consider writing a reply on the sites that do. By posting a courteous response that acknowledges the patient’s concerns, practices can show that they take feedback seriously and want to provide a better patient experience.

Here are some “do’s” and “don’ts” for doctors when crafting a response to a negative review:


do’s and don’ts for doctors negative review
In order to improve online reviews, patient retention, and hospital overall reputation, it’s a wise strategy to make follow-up phone calls a standard practice. Since the facility can’t always tell if a patient will return, it’s helpful to find out after a visit what they thought about their experience. It gives the facility a chance to clear up any lingering questions or doubts they may have. Follow-ups can be effective ways to persuade negative patients to change their attitudes and even reviews about your service. 

Best Hospital Advisor which provides a transparent health care platform where consumers can access, provide feedback and engage in their own health care decision-making  it’s a good tool for providers can continuously improve their strategies to provide quality care services.

Why using BHA?
BHA acts as a public portal that aims to empower consumers enhance transparency and transform healthcare into a global marketplace.

Benefits for Patients by using BHA                        
·         Platform to evaluate international healthcare providers
·         Search by geographic area, specialty, procedure, international standards, etc.
·         Access to detailed hospital profile 
·         Access to medical service providers  ratings & reviews
·         Access to hospital  key process indicators
·         Access to patients satisfaction metrics
·         Direct communications channel with medical service providers

Benefits for Providers by using BHA
·         Global exposure platform to a worldwide audience of potential patients
·         Search by geographic area, specialty, procedure, international standards, etc.
·         Profile with detailed medical service provider information
·         Capability to request, capture and publish patient reviews in 65 specialties and 1,300 services
·         Capability to publish hospital  key process indicators
·         Dashboard to visualize and management of key process indicators
·         Dashboard to visualize and management of key process indicators

These days online reviews are very important to influencing others to consider a business. The goal of improving online reviews, patient retention, patient acquisition and customer satisfaction can be achieved with a Platform such as Best Hospital Advisor to evaluate international healthcare providers. Encouraging patients with incentives to post positive reviews adds to this winning strategy.

It is crucial to protect the online reputation as a doctor or medical provider since many patients now based decisions on online reviews.

For more information about BHA click here