After polling healthcare practices in 2018 to understand how they approach the challenges of online reputation management, we turned our focus to the patient perspective.
PatientPop asked 839 people about online reputation in general and patient reviews specifically. We wanted to know what role reputation plays when patients research and ultimately select a provider. We also wanted insight into the online sources they rely upon when looking for care and whether they’ve posted reviews of their experience with providers.
With insights from this survey, we can begin tracking trends in patients’ online habits and their level of reliance on reviews. More important, healthcare providers can see the value — and urgency — in maintaining a strong reputation and addressing feedback as a key component of patient satisfaction.
In our survey, we found that three out of four people (74.6%) have looked online to find out about a doctor, a dentist, or medical care and that nearly six in 10 (57.1%) will go online sometimes or often to look for care.
To understand which online resources are favored most by patients, we asked two related questions. Respondents could select all options that apply. We then asked about the importance of positive reviews.
When searching for a provider, patients rely on the same three online resources, in the same order of preference, when first forming an opinion about a provider and then selecting one for care:
When choosing a healthcare provider:
Google is the top website choice for patients reading and posting online reviews. Nearly half (48.8%) of patients look for reviews of healthcare providers on the site. Of those who post online reviews, 41.2% have done so on multiple websites.
The 30-44-year-old age group, the most active in reading online reviews, also has more patients posting reviews (40.3%) than any other group.
Although WebMD is not a Top 5 choice for posting reviews (only 13.6% of patients), the site is far more popular for those reading reviews, finishing second behind Google, and read by about one-third of patients.
With this survey, we found that patients who express dissatisfaction are more likely to respond positively after a practice reaches out to address the situation.
To see how often providers take an active role in responding to feedback and reviews, and how that affects patient perception, we asked the following questions to patients who had submitted negative reviews.
More than half (51.8%) of patients say their negative feedback is not addressed by the practice.
When a patient who posts a negative review is contacted by the practice, they are satisfied by the process 60.3% of the time. They come away dissatisfied fewer than 1 in 5 times.
Of the four age groups surveyed, 30-44 year-olds are most often contacted by a provider following a negative review, 69.2% of the time.
When compared to the satisfaction of all patients posting negative reviews, the rate of satisfaction roughly doubles, increasing 99%. The rate of dissatisfaction drops 59%.
For healthcare practices, there are myriad benefits in receiving patient feedback. For example, practices can build upon their online reputation, providers and staff can understand areas of improvement, and patients can feel heard.
Of course, it’s difficult to receive any patient feedback without asking for it. These final two questions inquire how frequently and via what method patients are invited to share their experiences.
According to patients in our survey, fewer than half of healthcare providers (45.5%) are proactively asking their patients for feedback.
The digital options have widely varying usage rates for providers. More than one-half of patients (54.7%) who were asked for feedback receive their requests via email. Only 12.4% get requests via text message.
The majority of people are checking online resources when looking for providers, and most of those people place a strong value on patient reviews. Yet, too many healthcare practices are ignoring these growing trends: Most don’t ask for patient feedback, and most don’t respond when that feedback is from a dissatisfied patient.
Among age demographics, patients ages 30-44 emerge as the most active when it comes to searching for care online, using patient reviews to form opinions of providers, and posting reviews. Providers interested in targeting this age group, especially, need to focus their efforts on online reputation management.
When patients of any age share their opinions and experiences about healthcare providers online, most reviews are positive. Therefore, medical and dental practices, especially those in highly competitive markets, should take action to encourage more patients to share feedback.
Results for the 2019 patient perspective survey were gathered via a nationwide online survey of 839 people conducted February 7-8, 2019. Respondents are 54.4% female and have representation across four age groups: 18-29, 30-44, 45-60, and >60. Responses were obtained via a SurveyMonkey audience program, and participants were not excluded at any point by way of a screening question.
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