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Healthcare review sites make physicians reevaluate online presence

Today's Internet-savvy patients are doing research before scheduling a physician's visit. In turn, providers must be aware of their own online presence.

The shift toward online reviews is pushing physicians and hospitals to manage their online reputation to protect their market share. The Internet continues to influence consumers when they are deciding which physician they will choose for their care. One in five Internet users has consulted online healthcare reviews to decide where to go for healthcare services, according to a survey from Pew Research.

The Pew data also shows that 87% of U.S. adults have Internet access and 58% own a smartphone. This connectivity enables more patients to turn to the Internet when identifying where they should have their next physician's visit. Whether it is with a specialist or primary care physician, patients are scouring different healthcare reviews, ratings and patients' comments to inform their selection.

This patient behavior may force physicians to reassess their marketing strategy and online presence. In looking at the steps that physicians are taking to refine their online approach, there are four areas on which to focus.

Identifying current sources of ratings and reviews: There are several sources of online physician ratings for patients, including online physician directories and sites where physicians are graded on their care. Physicians, too, have multiple options when seeking out what is being said about them online. There are many online services that offer ways to get a summarized view of all the reviews and scores being shared about a physician. While these sites are typically driven by what patients post and how they rate their caregiver, it can also include Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems data from CMS, or information from private payers that release their own physician ratings.

Patient engagement and social media: All of this online interaction could lead to patients and providers having much closer relationships than before, which may generate more online feedback and data about physicians' performances. Some hospitals and independent practices are staying one step ahead of the digital curve and encouraging their patients to share their experiences online. This feedback will help providers proactively improve any areas of deficiency before they become widespread issues.

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Feedback and resolutions: Receiving negative reviews is an unfortunate but unavoidable occurrence for most physicians. Though it can be uncomfortable, it's a provider's responsibility to inform physicians of patient complaints and to make sure they are addressed. Some hospitals in North Carolina are responding to negative feedback by informing the patients who submitted the criticism what's being done to correct the issues.

Benchmark current reputation: Hospitals continuously look for ways to attract more patients to their facilities. As a measure to ensure their marketing department has visibility of their current market standing, internal hospital resources monitor their facilities' and physicians' online reputations and compare how it measures up with their competitors. This helps maintain visibility of staff performance and ensure they aren't sacrificing quality for quantity when it comes to patient care.

Physicians are experiencing the impact of their patients' feedback. For all patients, the most important thing is that their physician manages their condition. Confidence and trust in a physician is another critical component of the doctor-patient relationship. To attract patients and earn their trust, physicians must check that their online reputation is accurate, because like it or not, online ratings are increasingly having an effect on patients' decision making.

About the author:
Reda Chouffani is vice president of development with Biz Technology Solutions Inc., which provides software design, development and deployment services for the healthcare industry. Let us know what you think about the story; email
 editor@searchhealthit.com or contact @SearchHealthIT on Twitter.

This was last published in May 2014

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I run CareDash - one of the fastest growing healthcare provider review websites and would love to further the conversation on this. We are trying to change the paradigm a bit and make it a bit more of a conversation (with path to resolution).
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