More health systems ready to flaunt, not hide, online reviews

Online reviews play an expanding role in how patients choose healthcare providers, a trend that makes many physicians uneasy for various reasons. Particularly troubling is how one or two negative comments about a physician or practice with a low number of reviews can easily skew results.

"One scathing write-up out of three reviews, for example, can ravage a physician's reputation in a quick Google search," according to an article from Crain's Cleveland Business. "However, posting their own doc ratings and reviews--data they stress is compiled by independent parties and not fluffed for marketing purposes--could put the providers in a more positive light," the piece argued.

The Cleveland Clinic in Ohio is a prominent example of a healthcare organization that has sought to embrace the power of online reviews, by posting such data on its website. The data is collected by third-party company Press Ganey via surveys sent directly to patients. To ensure the information represents the average patient's experience with a physician, ratings are posted only for physicians with at least 30 returned surveys. The responses are not otherwise cherry-picked or screened. Bad reviews get posted, too, as long as they are free of profanity.

A total transparency strategy has been shown to dramatically boost organizations' online reputations, but some practices are wading in before taking the plunge. "Right now when we get positive feedback, we just send it to the physician or practice," Laura Markowski, who leads reputation management for the Carilion Clinic in Virginia, told Delaware Online. "We don't share it with everybody else, and that seems like a missed opportunity."

Markowski monitors several websites, including Healthgrades, ZocDoc, Facebook and Twitter for negative feedback as well. If she identifies any troubling trends, Carilion will address them, she said.

To learn more:
- see the story from Crain's Cleveland Business
- read the article from Delaware Online