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Providers should think seriously about leveraging online reviews

May 29, 2013
As a dentist, how should you think about attracting new patients?

In 2012, tension over online doctor reviews ran high. As the New York Times reported, physicians were turning to third-party reputation management firms who used legal threats to silence critical patients on the Web. Information freedom non-profits and tech media outlets responded with investigations and an FTC complaint.

As a former practitioner, I sympathize with some doctors’ apprehension about online reviews; the desire to protect oneself from unfair or unwarranted criticism is all too relatable. But patients have a right to talk about their experiences. Censorship also doesn’t work, especially in the age of the Internet. Gag orders will not silence angry patients. Those patients will simply find ways to air their opinions anonymously, regardless of whether their grievances are legitimate.

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And other patients will listen. According to Nielsen’s 2011 Global Trust in Advertising Survey, 70 percent of global consumers trust online reviews, making them the second-most trusted form of advertising. In a recent survey conducted by Search Engine Land, 72 percent of consumers said they give the same weight to online reviews that they do to personal recommendations. In other words, consumers rely heavily on online resources to make purchasing decisions – and healthcare consumers are no different.

The significance of this trend has not been lost on policymakers and other healthcare architects, who are working quickly to advance pay-for-performance healthcare models. Patient satisfaction, as measured through ratings and reviews, will soon be tied to compensation for employed doctors. In the independent setting, online reviews already affect income directly to the extent that potential new patients are attracted or repelled.

To read Dr. Oliver Kharraz's entire blog, go to ZocDoc.