Do online doctor reviews matter?
Well, aside from the fact that they can be biased, insignificant or statistically unreliable reviews are growing quite popular, with more patients making important decisions based on what they read.
As one patient said, “You have a lot to lose if you choose the wrong doctor.”
However it’s the above weaknesses that cause physicians to take reviews lightly or dismiss them altogether. But a recent survey shows that online reviews matter to patients. The 2013 Local Consumer Review Survey questioned 2,100 local respondents in North America (the U.S. and Canada) to find out how consumers read reviews and how their opinions or behaviour is affected by what they read.
Doctor & Dentist Local Searches Increase
Local searches for doctors and dentists increased from 27% in 2012 to 35% in 2013. Obviously most patients are searching for a doctor or dentist who is close to home. But once they find him or her, they’re not going to search for them again and again, much less keep looking up their driving directions. So there has to be a good reason why local searches for doctors and dentists are rising.
More Consumers Reading Doctor & Dentist Reviews
It’s clear that review consumption is up for the top 5 local business categories.
The data also shows some co-relation between the way people search for local businesses and how they read consumer reviews for those businesses (compare the two charts above). Notice for example, that both searches and consumption of reviews for doctor and dentist businesses jumped significantly between 2012 and 2013.
Clearly the consequences are high if you don’t choose the right doctor or dentist. But again, the average patient visits their doctor or dentist only a couple of times a year – hardly enough to warrant the increase in local searches alone. It seems that the increased interest in doctor reviews has had an impact on local searches for physician and dental practices.
Key Takeaway for Doctors and Dentists
You certainly don’t need another study or survey to tell you that more people are using Google search to find doctors and dentists in their local area. Make sure your online presence is strong. For search purposes a static website is not enough. Pay attention to Google Places, keyword optimization and content marketing to keep your website fresh and interesting.
Finally, whatever your personal opinion about online doctor reviews, remember that consumers read them and are influenced by what they read. And that’s really all that matters. Patients are to some extent relying on online reviews – whether good or bad – to make decisions about your business. Protect the reputation of your practice by offering great service and stellar patient experiences both on and offline. Then encourage your patients to leave a review of your practice on Yelp, Google Places or Healthgrade.
Are you a doctor or dentist? What impact do you think online reviews have on the reputation of your practice?