Healthcare reviews connect hospital dollars, patient feedback

Consumers increasingly are considering user-generated reviews of doctors, hospitals and even insurers in deciding where they spend their healthcare dollars, a new survey from PwC's Health Research Institute found.

The report showed nearly half of respondents had read online customer reviews of providers. Of those, 68 percent said the reviews influenced their choice of doctors, hospitals and to a lesser extent, health plans, pharmacies and drugs or medical devices.

"As consumerism in healthcare gains steam, customer feedback has become a determining factor in the success of health organizations," Kelly Barnes, PwC's U.S. health industries leader, said yesterday in an announcement. "Ratings connect consumers' experience to quality, and quality connects to financial performance, market share and reputation."

Consumers are most interested in the physician-patient relationship, what to do after a hospital visit and how to easily obtain service from their health plan, Barnes noted.

That interest in customer-based ratings represents an "enormous market opportunity" to create a trusted, central source of reviews, which does not yet exist, PwC concluded.

The findings echo those of similar research by the University of Michigan Health System, which found that word-of-mouth recommendations matter most, but online patient reviews or ratings are playing a small but significant--and growing--role when parents choose pediatricians.

Considering that online reviews can just as easily hurt as help, some doctors are filing defamation lawsuits against patients who post negative reviews. Results are mixed, according to Harvard University's Digital Media Project, with doctors winning some cases and losing others on free speech grounds.

To learn more:
- download the survey (.pdf)
- here's the announcement