6 Lies Doctors Tell Themselves About Online Reviews

Medical Practice Marketing Ideas - Reputation ManagementIf you want to get a doctor fired up, start a conversation with “I’ve been looking at your online reviews…”  You’re almost sure to get a response that includes some combination of the statements below. Unfortunately, most of them aren’t true.

Doctors are right to be frustrated with a personal performance score generated by the general public through a dubious rating system.

However, doctor’s don’t have the right to tell themselves the following lies about online reviews:

1. People don’t choose doctors based on online reviews

Because doctors love statistics, we’ll start there. According to a health care consumer survey in 2018:

  • 73% of consumers turn to the internet when selecting a medical provider
  • 71% look for patients’ feedback and ratings when seeking a new doctor

The Truth: Most people choose doctors based on online reviews.


2. My patients come from referrals, not the internet

The stats above include those with a referral from a trusted physician.  Additionally:

  • 69% select or avoid physicians based on reviews, even with a referral.

The impact of a physician referral is significant.  However, when given the name of a new physician on referral, most people turn to Google.

If they see negative reviews, they may ask their PCP for a referral to another doctor with better ratings.  Or, they may find another specialist that has reviews that specifically mention their condition and are known as an expert.

The truth: Patients routinely look up ratings and reviews when given a referral.  You need to position yourself as a well-liked expert.  This is done with positive patient reviews that mention the conditions you want to treat.


3. All I can do is be the best doctor I can be

This may be true for patient care, but not for practice growth.

  • 86% of consumers would consider leaving a review for a business

The top 2 reasons people don’t write reviews: They weren’t asked, they don’t know how

By doing nothing to influence your online ratings, you ensure the angry, unreasonable minority of patients have an oversized impact on your reputation.

Most of your patients are completely satisfied with your care. However, most of them won’t take the time to write a review without being asked.

Creating a system to ask all of your patients for reviews ensures a more accurate and positive online rating.

The truth: Many patients are willing to write reviews when asked, but failing to ask will almost always lead to disappointing results.


4. I don’t need more online reviews if my star rating is good

According to the 2018 Local Consumer Review survey:

  • 40% of consumers only take into account reviews written within the last two weeks (up 18% from 2017)
  • Consumers require an average 40 online reviews before believing a business’s star rating is accurate (up from 34 in 2017)
  • 57% expect more than 11 reviews (up from 51% in 2017)
  • Consumers read an average of 10 online reviews before feeling able to trust a local business
  • 57% of consumers won’t use a business that has fewer than 4 stars (up from 48% in 2017)

Patients like seeing relevant reviews. A patient with overactive bladder will appreciate a review that mentions helpful treatment for OAB more than a positive review about a vasectomy.

As an added bonus, Google now uses content from reviews to boost local business rankings higher. If you have 50 reviews that mention ‘colonoscopy’, there’s a good chance your practice will start ranking higher for that term. That will drive additional business since local search has become the new battleground for new patients.

The Truth: You’re probably losing patients to the competition if you don’t have at least 10 online reviews, at least a 4.0 rating, and recent reviews.


5. Asking for reviews is unethical (gaming the system)

There are unethical ways of getting reviews.  These include:

  • Paying for reviews (the worst)
  • Creating an incentive/giveaway in exchange for a positive review
  • Asking specifically for a positive review
  • Surveying patients and only asking happy clients for a review (the most common – and debatable)

However, asking all of your patients for an honest review is not unethical.  In fact, It’s not fair to patients to only see a handful of reviews when the doctor sees thousands of patients a year.
When you ask all your patients for a review, you are not artificially inflating your rating, you are making it more accurate.

Empower your patients with the full story by asking all patients to write accurate, honest reviews.

The truth: creating a rating that is based on as many patients experiences as possible is the most ethical thing you can do.


6. I don’t need to respond to reviews

  • 89% of consumers read local businesses’ responses to reviews
  • Over half of all consumers expect businesses to respond to negative online reviews within 7 days

Your patients are having a conversation about you online.  You should be a part of that conversation. Most patients are reasonable people and know when a negative patient review doesn’t add up or the person seems unstable.

Seeing a professional, helpful, and apologetic response from the practice shows prospective patients you care. Responding to positive reviews can also show that you appreciate the feedback and are engaged with your patients.

I’ve seen board complaints and lawsuits avoided simply by intervening early after a bad review online.

The truth: Not responding to online reviews sends the message, “I don’t care.


Want to attract great reviews the easy way? See how we help large medical practices attract great reviews.


Statistics from 2018 Healthcare Consumer Survey (Press Ganey) and 2018 Local Consumer Review Survey