The Wall Street Journal had an article a while back on online doctor reviews. It noted that 25% of patients are now viewing doctor reviews before booking an appointment. For the segment of patients that either don’t have a doctor or are unloyal to their doctor (about 60% of patients) this ratio is far higher and growing fast. Like most products and services, patients want to see what the community has to say before “buying”.
This has fairly significant consequences for providers. In some ways this trend is commoditizing the big hospital brands. It used to be that you’d want to go to a doctor that was affiliated with one of the prominent hospitals in your community. In some ways this is still true; but today, if a doctor has good online reviews from other patients, the patient doesn’t really care as much which health system the doctor is affiliated with. The doctor can gain trust from patients without the big brand. The community replaces the brand. The larger implication of this is that in the future health systems will have to focus more on their product (cost and quality) and less on their brand. But that’s an issue for another day.
The article notes that many providers are uncomfortable with patients posting reviews about them for the world to see. This hesitation is completely understandable. But smart providers will embrace reviews rather than avoid them.
Case in point: just look at Amazon. There are 536 one star reviews of the new Kindle Fire on Amazon.com. Why would Jeff Bezos ever allow negative reviews to be posted about his product on his own website?
The answer is simple: it’s all about trust. Bezos knows that the bad reviews increase trust and actually end up helping him sell more Kindles.
When eBay started many years ago, most of their transactions were small purchases like Pez dispensers and other low-cost items because buyers were worried about giving their credit card to a stranger over the internet.
Fast forward to today and eBay sells all sorts of very high ticket items on their site — they sell tens of thousands of cars over their mobile app. That’s right, people buy cars on their phone.
In order to buy a car on your smartphone you have to really trust the seller. That trust comes from reviews. It never would’ve happened without the trust that was built through seller reviews.
Providers need to embrace this as well. And some already are: Cleveland Clinic, the University of Utah and other big hospitals are now allowing patients to post negative reviews of their doctors on their websites. Like Bezos and eBay sellers, these providers understand that the trust gained from being transparent about a provider outweighs any negative perception that might come from bad reviews.
From hotels to taxis to healthcare, we’re seeing that the community is trumping the brand. Reviews from the community create transparency, and transparency creates trust, and trust creates growth.