Physician online reviews gain power

Although narrow payer networks often exclude certain physicians, 44 percent of patients may be willing to seek out-of-network doctors with favorable online reviews, according to a new survey published by practice management systems consultancy Software Advice.

This figure is up significantly from the firm's 2013 survey, which found that just 26 percent of patients would go outside networks based on reviews.

"Consulting an out-of-network doctor is no small inconvenience to a patient, either through increased out-of-pocket expenses, time and effort required to change insurance providers or general uncertainty about fees and coverage," noted the report. "As such, the fact that nearly half of respondents would consider such a change based on reviews speaks to just how big of a role such reviews can play in a patient's decision."

In fact, the number of patients using online reviews jumped 68 percent from 2013 to 2014, the survey found. The factors that mattered most to the 4,500 patients surveyed in 2014 included the following:

  • Quality of care (48 percent)
  • Rating (45 percent)
  • Patient experience (40 percent)
  • Accurate diagnoses (34 percent)
  • Wait times (25 percent)
  • Doctor's listening skills (22 percent)

Finally, as similar research has found, most patients leave positive or neutral reviews. When negative reviews do occur, "respond if possible, make improvements when possible and remember that most Internet users are savvy and consider online content with caution and in the context of other reviews," recommended Tara Lagu, M.D., of Baystate Medical Center. She added: "The best response to a negative review is the presence of many more positive reviews from other patients."

To learn more:
- read the report

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