Online Reviews: Leveraging 3 Trends That Brought them Center Stage

David Engel

Guest post by David Engel, Co-founder of Review Concierge.


There it lay. Faded graphite thoughts etched from corner to coffee-stained corner. Face down. Buried under strata of paperwork—the paper feedback form. Once a hallmark of modern medicine, the paper feedback form is now a relic. Yet patient feedback itself lives on, transformed into red ninja stars—the kind you would see on Yelp—headed straight for your healthcare organization.

Patient feedback is yet another element of society that has been transformed by the Internet. Where feedback used to be written privately on pieces of paper, it is now being left as reviews for the world to read on the Internet. The change in patient feedback stems from three technological, social and financial trends. This article identifies these three trends and serves as a conversation starter for healthcare IT leaders to engage other departments in a strategy to leverage online reviews for growth in 2015, and beyond.

Trend 1 – Technological

In 1999, America fell in love with the online review. Within six months of its invention, 1,146,201 reviews had been created for sports teams, products, etc. Doctors largely flew under the radar until 2007 when the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) began publishing a list of all US doctors. Now, 70+ websites like Yelp regularly copy the CMS’s list of doctors onto their websites for consumers to leave reviews. This is why online reviews show up on nearly every search for a doctor’s name, even when patients aren’t seeking reviews out specifically.

Trend 2 – Social

It seems counter-intuitive that patients would believe the words of a stranger on the Internet over a trusted friend. Yet, a 2011 survey by CONE Research survey revealed that 89 percent of consumers check online reviews before making expensive purchases—even after receiving a recommendation from a trusted friend. Also surprising was the number of people who would take the time to write reviews. According to an August 2014 interview with Jeremy Stoppelman, CEO of Yelp, “Skeptics initially scoffed at the idea that people would feed Yelp free reviews of local businesses.” Those skeptics were wrong. Yelp has accumulated 61+ million reviews.

Trend 3 – Financial

The Affordable Care Act’s effect on health care is not fully understood. Nevertheless, early data suggests that healthcare costs are increasing for both consumers and employers. A March 2014 study from Mercer revealed four out of five U.S. employers have raised deductibles or are considering doing so as healthcare costs increase. This move by U.S. employers makes healthcare more expensive for 171 million people—or two-thirds of all Americans with coverage. The more expensive health care gets, the more patients will turn to online reviews to help them choose doctors.

A Coordinated Strategy Needs the Help of IT

The three trends in technology, society and insurance have come together to focus the spotlight on the need for online review management for healthcare organizations. Online review management is a category of reputation management that focuses exclusively on monitoring reviews, responding to reviews and getting more reviews. Retail businesses, like restaurants and hotels, have been engaging in online review management for years.

Best practices from restaurants and hotels, however, do not always fit the unique needs of healthcare organizations. For starters, a hospital has more “surface area” where people can write reviews than say, a restaurant. A restaurant would only have Yelp profiles for its locations, not the individual waiters and chefs. A hospital would have Yelp profiles for each doctor, physician’s assistant, nurse, and satellite offices.

There is a good chance that the marketing department in your healthcare organization has already begun compiling a spreadsheet with your doctors’ online review profiles. Their next step is to obtain software that scans these profiles for new reviews. Healthcare IT leaders need to get involved with this software selection process before shadow IT rears its ugly head, and marketing builds its own online review management solution.

The legal department in a healthcare organization will want to ensure that marketing does not violate HIPAA when responding to reviews. Editorial controls are needed to ensure discretion and oversight when responding to reviews. Healthcare organizations should count on their IT departments to setup the proper systems so that responses to reviews are properly vetted and approved before being published online.

Administration is another stakeholder that will be looking to online reviews for insights about how they can best improve their processes and to measure performance of their staff. For example, a common complaint for healthcare organizations is that their billing practices are confusing. IT professionals can look for trends within reviews to make suggestions for improving billing communications or any other process that patients complain about. Trend reports can also monitor medical complaints so risks can be detected before major liabilities are incurred.

Since online reviews are patient feedback, nearly every department will have a need to access the organization’s reviews. It is up to the leaders of IT to reach across their organizations and setup technology that connects everyone around a common strategy: to leverage online reviews for growth in 2015, and beyond.

David Engel is the co-founder of Review Concierge, a San Diego-based company that helps healthcare institutions, as well as individual doctors and dentists, manage their online reviews. David’s background is in advertising, marketing and public relations with an emphasis on technology. Before starting Review Concierge, David was the founder of Company Data Trees, Inc, a B2B data search engine. David is a recognized leader in the field of Salesforce systems design; he was a speaker at the Dreamforce 2014, a leading technology conference that drew over 140,000 attendees. David is available to work with select clients when they purchase a service plan from

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