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Do your online ratings help patients find you?

Direct primary care (DPC) physicians who want to increase their reach and bring in new patients can market their practice through their existing patients. Someone who is searching for a new provider will tend to trust the words of those who have seen that provider and who have shared their experiences regarding the physician’s expertise, office staff, and other aspects of the practice. A study conducted by researchers at Stanford and the University of Washington found that online ratings can help patients find you. 

In today’s digital environment, consumers look online for almost everything. They shop for products and services from the comfort and privacy of their electronic devices and make decisions with a few clicks. Consumers know they can find all the information they need on the internet and that includes their decision to find a new provider. Almost 75% of patients rely on online reviews when searching for that new doctor.

Although there have been questions raised about the validity and quality of some online reviews, the study found that online physician rating platforms do help patients disseminate important quality information and directs them to higher quality providers. In particular, the American Medical Association (AMA) has had concerns about user-generated physician ratings lacking useful information. However, the study found that the ratings can be a valuable resource for patients.

By posting reviews and giving provider ratings, existing patients are able to infer their physician’s clinical quality. They relate observations of their own health conditions as well as directly assess the provider’s skills related to communication, attentiveness, and empathy. These are all aspects of a provider and the practice that potential patients will want to know about before making their own decisions.

In fact, the researchers found that physicians who receive higher ratings do have higher clinical quality. These physicians have higher quality educational and professional credentials as measured by board certification status, accreditations, and school rankings. Providers who are ranked higher also have a higher level of adherence to clinical guidelines. These physicians’ patients also display better outcomes.

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For the DPC practice that seeks to grow its patient panel, online ratings have been shown to help patients find a new provider and increase that providers’ revenue and patient volume. The study found that an increase in a provider’s average rating has a positive effect on the physician’s patient flow. For the patient, user-generated physician ratings can be a reliable and user-friendly source of information that aids in their decision to find a new provider.

The study’s researchers acknowledged that patients respond differently to different information. They found that potential patients reviewing user-generated physician ratings respond the most to information about the physician’s interpersonal and clinical skills. They conclude that overall, online physician rating platforms have the potential to promote efficiency by disseminating important quality information to patients, directing potential patients who are considering a decision to higher quality providers.

Online ratings and reviews are becoming increasingly important:

  • 72% of patients start the search for a new doctor online.

  • 33% of Millennials look for healthcare information online and on message boards.

  • Around 84% of today’s patients say they research new primary physicians and medical practitioners online before visiting a doctor’s office.

  • 85% of users trust online reviews as much as they trust personal recommendations.