Healthcare News & Insights

Online reviews affect patient choices: How hospitals can respond

More and more patients are turning to online reviews when it comes to choosing a doctor or hospital. That means your hospital needs to put its best foot forward online whenever possible.

466583341Whether it’s anecdotally asking friends on Facebook for a hospital recommendation, or browsing sites like Yelp and HealthGrades for ratings of providers, there’s more ways for potential patients to use the Internet to screen hospitals.

Recent research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found that many patients have knowledge of the info available to them online. Two-thirds of Americans surveyed were aware that health reviews were available online. And close to a quarter of them had actually used these sites for research within the past year.

Out of those who’ve used the sites, 35% of them picked a doctor because he or she received a good rating. The reverse was true, too: 37% didn’t use a doctor who had a bad rating.

Access influences decisions

It’s clear that the info patients get online about hospitals and doctors has a direct effect on the decisions they make concerning their health care. So it’s important for hospitals to know what’s being posted about their health system and their providers online.

And with recent efforts from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to make hospital pricing and quality data more accessible to patients via the Web, it’s even more crucial for your hospital to be displayed in a positive light online.

Negative reviews? 3 ways to turn them around

Hospitals can’t control everything that’s posted about them on the Internet, but some things are in their power to change, like the perception patients may get from bad online reviews.

If there’s a negative review online about your hospital or one of your doctors, there are ways to respond that can help your hospital maintain a positive image. An article in Forbes magazine offers tips to best respond to a negative review.

  1. Learn from the review. Even if the truthfulness of the review is disputed, negative comments are an excellent opportunity for hospitals to examine their policies and protocol for patient care to see if there are any issues that need to be corrected.
  2. Avoid responding publicly unless absolutely necessary. A representative from the hospital may wish to reach out to disgruntled patients privately to address their concerns, but a public response posted online isn’t always a good idea. However, if the claims are particularly outrageous, a professional public response reiterating the hospital’s official policy toward similar situations may be appropriate.
  3. Fight back against fake reviews. Online review sites take claims of false reviews seriously. If the criticism you encounter online seems untruthful, your hospital may want to report it to the site’s administrator and request that the offending review be removed.

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