How to make online reviews work for you

Online review sites are problematic for physicians in many ways, from providing consumers with a skewed representation of a practice to outwardly fraudulent posts. In most cases, physicians have little recourse for combating potentially damaging posts, so they must actively solicit enough positive feedback to overshadow the bad.

And while the approach seems counterintuitive, practices embracing the "let it all hang out" strategy reported that it works, according to an article from MedPage Today. Hospitals and clinics in the University of Utah system, for example, collect and publish patient reviews through patient-satisfaction company Press Ganey. This transparency created a "fire hose effect," in which positive reviews strongly outnumber the bad, according to Chrissy Daniels, director of strategic initiative at University of Utah hospitals and clinics.

This ratio occurs without the health system's interference. Practices that use the company's surveys publish 99.5 percent of patient feedback unedited, according to a statement from Press Ganey, only removing comments considered to be libelous, profane or that risk the privacy of patients.

Similarly, the Cleveland Clinic uses information from the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS), which is available to the public online, to let its fans promote the group. HCAHPS data, however, does not include reviews of specific physicians.

Nonetheless, it's nearly impossible for physicians to avoid negative reviews on consumer sites such as Yelp and RateMDs completely--and physicians should avoid the temptation to ignore false or inflammatory postings.

In most cases, doctors can reach out and say something like, "We appreciate your time taken to review us and have implemented steps to improve other patients' experiences," Kathy Moghadas, R.N., a risk manager who is certified in healthcare compliance, told MedPage.

To learn more:
- read the article
- see the statement from Press Ganey