Why Online Reviews Help

Why Online Reviews Help Patients, Improve the Quality of Health Care, and Can Even Help Grow Your Business

Doctors often fear negative patient reviews, but negative reviews are actually rare.  The vast majority of patient reviews are positive or neutral, not negative. One study found that 88% of online reviews of doctors were positive. At DrScore, the average doctor rating is 9.3 out of 10, according to website owner Dr. Steven Feldman.

Moreover, one study shows that physician morale actually increased after patients gave them online feedback through a website.

This data suggests that anti-review contracts don’t solve a problem; they create a problem.  The contracts incorrectly assume online reviews will be bad even though online reviews are overwhelming good.  As a result, you should not fear online reviews; you should embrace them.  Indeed, patients who review you and read reviews about you are generally happier to see you. And evidence also suggests that public data about patient care can both stimulate efforts to improve healthcare quality and lead to better patient choices in the health care system.

If there aren’t online reviews about you, then two problems can occur.  First, prospective patients looking to learn more about you will consult other information sources, some of which may be even less credible than patient reviews.  Second, prospective patients may be feel more comfortable contacting doctors who have at least a few reviews. If you don’t have many reviews but your competition does, they may get the prospective patient’s call.

Even if your contract claims that you aren’t restricting online reviews but it contains the copyright assignment to patients’ reviews, you are still sending the wrong signals to your patients.  The backdoor effort to take control over your patients’ unwritten reviews says you don’t like online reviews, and it can make patients wonder what you might be hiding.

I’m not opposed to patient reviews.  I just want an easy way to get rid of a false negative review.

Prospective patients are generally smart consumers of information. While a few prospective patients may overreact to a single negative review, most consumers use reviews to look for trends and patterns about the reviewed business.  Furthermore, consumers are very skeptical of businesses that only have positive reviews.  Reviews in only one direction indicate bias or imbalance and are often discounted or discarded by online consumers.  Research suggests that a few negative reviews can actually improve consumer trust in the overall set of reviews.

Therefore, you should not fear negative reviews.  Every doctor gets them, most consumers don’t overreact to them, and they help consumers trust that they are getting the full perspective—the good and the bad—about the doctor.

If a false negative review does appear, you can try to respond generally to its concerns on the website itself or on your own website. If it is still hurting your reputation, then a defamation lawsuit may be warranted.  However, in most cases, false negative reviews are either best left ignored or, at most, deserve a reply explaining the virtues of your practice.

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[Note: we initially posted this page in 2011. A few months later, Medical Justice “retired” its form. In 2016, Congress enacted the Consumer Review Fairness Act banning anti-review contracts.]