Trashed on the Internet: What to Do Now

Shelly Reese

Disclosures

January 20, 2016

In This Article

Seeing the Light: The Power of Positive Reviews

Dr Segal's epiphany came after he participated in a 2012 research study of nine online review sites to determine whether surgeon volume, as a proxy for clinical outcomes and patient safety, correlated with online reputation. To his great surprise, the study, published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, found "online review websites provide a rich source of data that may be able to track that quality of care."[2]

Other research studies have produced similar findings. Another 2012 study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research analyzed more than 386,000 reviews posted on RateMDs between 2005 and 2010 and found "no evidence that they are dominated by disgruntled patients. There exist statistically significant correlations between the value of ratings and physician experience, board certification, education, and malpractice claims, suggesting a positive correlation between online ratings and physician quality."[3]

Although it's validating to see a correlation between reviews and quality, most doctors who are embracing online reviews are doing so for a far more fundamental reason: It's good for business. More than 6 out of 10 (62%) of patients who use online review sites do so as a first step in finding a new doctor, according to a 2013 study by Software Advice, and savvy physicians are using the review sites as a way of promoting their businesses.[4]

The online review sites may be especially beneficial for physicians offering discretionary services not covered by insurance, says Eric Goldman. Because patients seeking discretionary services aren't limited by insurance networks and may be willing to travel for their procedures, doctors with solid online reviews have the potential to appeal to patients all over the world.

Ultimately, positive reviews serve a twofold purpose, says Dr Segal. They're a powerful way to promote a practice, but they're also the best defense against negative reviews. "The best solution to pollution is dilution," he says.

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