What Would Your Patients Say About You?

What-Would-Your-Patients-Say-About-YouWith instant access to virtually everything online, doctors don’t have the luxury of hiding behind a gatekeeper at the front desk or phone to prevent patients and would-be patients from learning more about them. But this is not necessarily a bad thing. With more consumer access to physician information, ratings and philosophy, doctors can improve their image and boost their credibility with clients they’re attempting to serve.

The Information Is Out There … Are You Ready For It?

In case doctors think they’re still somewhat invisible, the findings of a recent study reported in JAMA should prove otherwise. Sixty-five percent of respondents in a national survey indicated awareness of physician ratings and about one-fourth said they used doctor review sites.

This shouldn’t be surprising, given that consumers have flocked to the Internet for ready access to information on everything from cars to carbohydrates, from taxes to taxidermy, and from diet books to doctors – and everything in between.

Interestingly, among the survey respondents, the two age groups most heavily represented in usage of sites with online ratings for physicians were seniors (those ages 60 and older) at 26 percent and young adults (ages 18 to 29) at 21 percent.

What Consumers Look For

As for what consumers are using these sites for, this is another area physicians may want to pay more attention to.

  • Choosing a physician – 40 percent said these sites were “very important” in their choice of a doctor, although site usage ranked behind word of mouth from family and friends.
  • Good doctor ratings – 36 percent of those who looked for a physician in the past year chose a doctor based on good ratings; 37 percent avoided a doctor because of bad ratings.

Still, consumer trust in such websites isn’t universal. According to the study, of those who said they hadn’t sought online physician ratings, the reason given by 43 percent was “lack of trust in the information” on the sites.

Consumer awareness of physician rating sites (65 percent) is well below that for other consumer sites such as cars (87 percent) and non-health care service providers (71 percent).

What Doctors Can Do

Recognizing that what your patients may say about you could have a serious impact on your practice, perhaps the best thing you can do is pay more attention to each patient you see.

Since your very reputation is on the line, you want the impression you make on your patients to be the most positive it can be. Even if bad news is being delivered, your demeanor and patience, as well as your knowledge, are important factors.

It’s also worth considering that each patient’s “review” of you likely impacts many more people when it’s available online than in years past when such comments were only spread by word of mouth. The Internet gives people a voice that knows no geographic or time barriers. What your patients say about you could live forever.

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