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Are Online Provider Reviews End-Game for Patient Care Access?

Topic: Are Online Provider Reviews End-Game for Patient Care Access?

Good online provider reviews are important for getting patients in the door, but they might not be the end-all-be-all, according to new data from AARP and Michigan Medicine.

Although the researchers heavily focused on the influence online provider reviews can have on patient care access and patient decision-making, a number of other factors are still crucial for older adults, the paper, published in Annals of Internal Medicine, revealed.

Online provider reviews have taken up a notable amount of mindshare among organization marketing teams and providers themselves. These public reviews hold the potential to shape a clinician’s reputation in a big way.

And as consumerism in healthcare continues to grow, clinicians and marketing teams alike need to understand how they can navigate these online reviews to ensure a good reputation.

Importantly, clinicians have grown concerned that online reviews won’t reflect the quality of care they deliver. Rather, they fear unsatisfactory elements of the healthcare experience outside of clinician control, like parking, will color reviews and ultimately their reputation.

The data, which leveraged survey responses from patients over age 50 responding to the National Poll on Healthy Aging, showed that online provider reviews are important, but not necessarily the most important factor in care decision-making. Overall, 43 percent of patients said they checked online provider reviews before selecting a new clinician, but only 20 percent said those online reviews are important to them.

Instead, patients value the recommendation of their clinicians, with 40 percent reporting such. Another 20 percent said they value the recommendation of their family and friends.

And what’s more, patients seem significantly more concerned with convenient care access than any sort of review. Good online reviews pale in comparison to whether a provider accepts a patient’s insurance or how readily available an appointment is. The location of a clinic and operational hours also won out over online reputation, the data showed.

Despite keen focus on convenient care access, clinicians are still concerned about maintaining a squeaky-clean online reputation, the study authors suggested.

“The information found on physician rating sites can vary in level of detail, and often lacks information on the clinical quality of the care the physician provides,” Jeffrey Kullgren, MD, MS, MPH, the paper’s first author and co-director of the poll, said in a statement.

That could have some influence on how patients consume those online reviews, Kullgren, a primary care physician and researcher at Michigan Medicine, U-M’s academic medical center, and at the VA Center for Clinical Management Research, added.

“As a result, patients may be skeptical,” he said. “If someone is using online ratings, they should consider what’s most important to them, and understand the potential upsides and downsides of the information they find online.”

Topic Discussed: Are Online Provider Reviews End-Game for Patient Care Access?

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