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April 13, 2022

72% of patients look for four or five star providers: Why online reviews are so important

Daily Briefing

Patient ratings and reviews are becoming a significant factor in patients' health care decisions, according to a new report from Reputation—and health systems should make an effort to improve both the patient experience and their online reputations if they want to draw in more people.

Cheat sheet: How to respond to online reviews

Health care reviews on the rise

According to research conducted by Reputation in collaboration with YouGov, online patient ratings and reviews play an influential role in consumers' health care decisions.

For the report, the Reputation Data Science team examined 2,778,931 online patient ratings and reviews for 179,073 physicians and health care facilities to determine review trends and patient sentiment. 

Among U.S. adults, 75% say they read online patient ratings and reviews when they choose a physician or health care provider. In addition, 72% said they look for a minimum rating of four or five stars when choosing a physician or facility.

Overall, facilities saw a 0.05-point increase in star ratings from 2020 for an average of 4.4 stars, while physicians saw a 0.03-point decrease for an average of 4.7 stars.

In addition, review volumes increased 50% for hospitals and 58% for physicians in 2021 compared with 2020. Positive reviews often mentioned physicians' and nurses' bedside manner, as well as Covid-19 vaccination experiences. In comparison, negative reviews typically focused on poor experiences with administrative staff.

The health systems with the best reputations

Reputation also analyzed the 25 largest health systems in the United States and ranked the top 15 using a Reputation Score, which is an index of a business' digital presence. The score, which is scaled from 0 to 1,000, is based on nine elements:

  1. Star average: A strong rating shows a commitment to customer service and can influence customers' decision to choose a health system.
  2. Review volume: The total number of reviews for an organization, both positive and negative.
  3. Review recency: More recent reviews suggest a business is actively requesting feedback to keep customers engaged.
  4. Review spread: The total number of sites reviews are being posted on, including Google, Facebook, and industry-specific review sites.
  5. Search impressions: How businesses appear when customers search for them online, with higher appearances on search engines being more visible.
  6. Social engagement: Users who are engaged with businesses on social networks are more likely to become customers.
  7. Listing accuracy: Site with accurate listings typically attract more customers.
  8. Review response: Businesses that respond to customer reviews show a commitment to customer service and can help influence discussions about a brand.
  9. Review length: The length of customers' reviews shows how invested they are in a business and how much time they will spend giving feedback.

Based on their Reputation Scores, the top 15 health care systems are:

  1. Community Health Systems*
  2. HCA Healthcare*
  3. Universal Health Services*
  4. Baylor Scott & White Health*
  5. CommonSpirit Health*
  6. Trinity Health
  7. Advent Health*
  8. Ascension*
  9. Tenet Healthcare
  10. Sutter Health
  11. Northwell Health*
  12. University of Pittsburgh Medical Center*
  13. Spectrum Health*
  14. Banner Health*
  15. Intermountain Healthcare*

(* denotes an Advisory Board member)

According to Reputation, the top health systems often performed better when it came to patient sentiment, visibility, and engagement.

4 ways health systems can improve their reputations

To help health systems improve their online presence and how patients view them, Reputation offered four tips, including:

1. Take steps to improve Reputation Scores

Providers should request and respond to reviews from patients. This feedback from patients should also be used to improve the patient experience, which will then improve review volume, sentiment, and recency—all of which will influence an organization's Reputation Score.

2. Regularly collect and analyze feedback

Organizations should collect feedback through a variety of structured and unstructured sources, including surveys and social media.

Feedback should also be organized in a single location to allow organizations to see a complete picture of certain issues. This will then help them use the data to prioritize any changes or improvements that are needed.

3. Improve Google Business Profiles

Customers often want to interact with an organization directly through its Google Business Profile, including scheduling appointments, starting a virtual visit, and sending messages to staff members.

Physicians should use their Google Business Profiles to provide important information about themselves, such as a biography, specialties, photos, and patient reviews, which will help "humanize their brand," according to Reputation.

In addition, physicians can use their profiles to monitor and respond to patient reviews, as well as request reviews to improve care.

4. Implement an employee experience program

Patient experience is often impacted by interactions with staff members, so it is important to ensure that employees are satisfied with their working conditions. An employee experience program, which should include both providers and administrative staff, can help improve retention by regularly gauging employee sentiment, listening to feedback, and making necessary changes.

Organizations should also improve communications with their employees, promoting transparency and a positive working environment. (Blackman, HealthLeaders Media, 4/8; 2022 Healthcare Reputation report, accessed 4/12)

 

Advisory Board's take

The cost of a bad review is increasing—here's how to respond

By Emily Heuser, Director 

I'm not surprised to hear that the use of reviews to inform care selection is up since 2020—star reviews were not top of mind for patients at the start of the pandemic. But this does make me wonder: Has the cost of a bad review increased—and has the risk of not knowing what your reviews say about you gone up as well?

My guess is that individual patients are not the only people who look at reviews. Employers considering Centers of Excellence contracts, physician groups choosing partners—this info is so readily available that it would be hard for scaled influencers of patient choice to ignore. This is not to say one negative review will jeopardize a potential contract or partnership, but a negative theme could cast an unfavorable light.

We've profiled plenty of strategies for review management, from encouraging more patients to post, to launching service recovery privately to negative comments, to improving patient experience, to hosting more representative reviews on your website. It's like curb appeal in real estate: if you're trying to entice someone to come in—whether that's an individual patient, a partner, or a staff applicant—it's worth the effort to roll out at least one of these strategies well to make sure your front yard is appealing, welcoming, and indicative of what's inside.

In efforts to help guide you in the world of online reviews, we've developed a cheat sheet to learn best practices for strategically responding to online reviews in a HIPAA-compliant, patient-friendly manner.

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