Online reviews and star ratings are an increasing part of our vernacular, along with all the other new words, phrases and actions that increase daily since the dawn of the public’s introduction to the Internet. Entire plotlines or scenes in TV shows and movies are speckled with dialogue from characters threatening to leave scathing reviews on Yelp, or in one recent episode of a new show, a fictitious ratings and review website was created for ladies of the evening.
Online reviews are ubiquitous in our society. They are a concept that people are very familiar with. Go back to 1999 when the first online review was invented. There were only three websites back then, RateItAll.com, Deja.com, Epinions.com – within six months over a million reviews had been written. Reviews exploded fast, grew very quickly and are now just another part of our everyday life. Reviews have become the new “word of mouth.” A 2011 CONE Research survey shows that online reviews have grown in influence so much that consumers would rather believe reviews written by a complete stranger over their friends and family.
The driving factor that has made online reviews omnipresent is that they are embedded in online searches, mobile searches and maps. Even if the consumer’s intention is not to read reviews, the star ratings and online reviews show up regardless.
All industries are being affected by the increased visibility online reviews have in how consumers make choices in today’s cyber-connected world. And, it’s not going away – it’s becoming a necessary part of doing business, any business, where those you serve can actively share and give voice to their opinions and experiences.
Why do online reviews matter to Healthcare providers?
In days past, the reputation of the doctor was assumed. No one questioned it. Doctors were an esteemed member of our community, society, and our local culture. It wasn’t a question that needed to be answered, you went to the family doctor. It was an expectation, just like getting married in your mid- to late-20s and having 2.5 children.
One of the biggest changes in the healthcare business is the consumerization of healthcare. Before, healthcare practitioners did not have to think of how the public viewed them, other than internally in their practice or hospital with surveys sent out to patients about the care they received. The new reality is that people have more freedom to choose – their plans, doctors and how they spend allocated healthcare and wellness funds. Everything from the ACA, the HSAs, higher deductibles, all things you hear every day in the news. The ACA is causing patients to make a choice where they spend their healthcare dollars. The consumerization of healthcare is moving into all branches of medicine, including primary care.
Just like consumers do before purchasing a new TV, they are checking online reviews for doctors. The rub is that online comments and ratings are not controlled. That puts the doctor at a major disadvantage. But, there are solutions available now.
Online review and reputation management services can help healthcare professionals and organizations take control, have more visibility into what is being said about them, and where it’s being said.
A growing part of your business is managing online reviews and your reputation. You have to do something; reviews are not something you can ignore. The best course of action is to be aware of what is out there and what is being said. Then you can actively engage and participate in the conversation, and create processes to increase positive online reviews. This is the new way of life for all businesses in our always online society, and it’s not going away.