Significantly more patients are using online reviews to find a provider this year compared to last year, according to research from Austin, Tx.-based electronic health record (EHR) comparison site Software Advice.
In a survey of 4,620 U.S. healthcare consumers, it was discovered that more patients (42 percent) are using online reviews in 2014 than in the company’s 2013 survey (25 percent), a 68 percent growth year-over-year. According to the researchers, with 42 percent of the patient population turning to online review sites to research their doctors, physicians can’t afford to ignore their presence on sites such as Yelp, Healthgrades, and RateMDs.
Among insured patients surveyed, 44 percent indicated they’d be willing to go visit a doctor outside their insurance network if that doctor had higher reviews than an in-network physician. Given the inconveniences inherent in consulting an out-of-network doctor, the fact that nearly half of respondents would consider such a change based on reviews demonstrates the importance they place on this feedback from other patients, the researchers concluded.
Since Yelp, Healthgrades, and RateMDs were almost equally represented in terms of popularity and trustworthiness, doctors who diversify their online presence and list themselves on multiple sites may gain an advantage over their colleagues in both attracting new patients and retaining existing ones, the researchers said.
Nearly half of the respondents (48 percent) cited quality of care as the review information they value most. Thus, the researchers suggested that doctors should consider encouraging patients to rate the quality of care they receive. With so many patients looking for a new doctor via review sites, a presence there could help doctors attract patients who otherwise wouldn’t have found them, they said.
The researchers concluded that having online profiles and positive patient reviews is not only desirable for physicians, but may soon become a necessity to attract and retain patients, particularly as the healthcare arena becomes increasingly patient-centric.