For too long, the health care industry did not have a culture that cared about what their consumers thought. They were patients, not customers. And as such, attention wasn’t paid to meeting their demands, offering deals or improving service as a competitive advantage.
It always struck me that when I went to a doctor’s waiting room, there were a bunch of people in there that all knew something about that doctor – and they weren’t talking. At Vitals, we wanted to create a forum where people could open up and share their experiences for the benefit of other consumers – to inform on the quality of the office staff, the doctor’s bedside manner and wait times. The industry wasn’t going to provide a solution for comparison shopping, so we did.
As we built our review system, there were some essential ingredients that we baked in. We knew from our experience with other sites that there are three things that make consumers visit and trust review sites.
1) Reviews need to be helpful. It’s not that reviews can’t be negative, but it doesn’t help anyone when a person has an axe to grind and takes to review sites like Vitals. So, moderation policies need to be legitimate, not restrictive.
On Vitals, we block inflammatory words and phrases that have no place in a review. We’re not in the practice of pulling down reviews when doctors complain – and that happens often. We protect a consumer’s right to their opinion several times every day. But we can’t tolerate reviews that are flagged as racist or derogatory.
2) Reviewers feel comfortable sharing on your site. One of the issues Vitals grappled with early on was whether or not to make the reviews anonymous or identified. Because one’s health is often private and not talked about publicly, Vitals made the decision to protect anonymity in our reviews.
It’s not as much of an issue to have people give away some of their identity when they leave a restaurant or hotel review. On Vitals, reviewers remain as anonymous as a diner or traveler leaving a Yelp review.
3) Volume. Vitals has more doctor reviews than any other review site. The more reviews a site has, the more valuable the reviews become. Consumers are savvy enough to look for patterns in a review. They know that if there is one bad review among ten positive reviews, it is probably an outlier. We trust sites that have more reviews.
How many people are using consumer review sites?
Review sites have been a game-changer in many industries. Here are some stats that reinforce that below:
- Around one out of four US adults surveyed has used online reviews of physicians to make their healthcare choices. The US study of around 2,000 adults found that 19% of those surveyed called online review sites “very important” for picking a physician, with another 44% calling them “somewhat important.” (JAMA, February 19, 2014)
- Half of respondents said a positive online physician review could encourage them to choose that physician, while 72 percent said a negative review would deter them from choosing that physician. Additionally, 46 percent of respondents said only two to five negative reviews out of 100 would be enough to prevent them from choosing a particular practice. (Beckers Hospital Review, Patients Turn to Online Reviews When Choosing Care Providers, January 29, 2014)
- “Healthcare now is a retail service, like banking or tax preparation. People expect to be able to drive right up, walk in, and have the same experience they can have in a restaurant or retail establishment. The standards that consumers of food and financial services have are the same standards patients have for their physicians. In some ways, it’s unfair to the doctor, but it is the reality.” (Medscape, Top Complaints Posted on Doc-Rating Websites, February 20, 2014)
- Nearly seven in 10 millennial social users are at least somewhat influenced to purchase based on friends’posts (eMarketer, Millennials’ Social Media Posts Influence Peers to Buy New Products, February 4, 2014)
- The majority (62 percent) use online reviews as a first step to find a new doctor. 19 percent use online reviews to validate the choice of a doctor they’ve tentatively selected before making an appointment. And another 19 percent use online reviews to evaluate an existing doctor. (Software Advice, How Your Patients Are Using Online Reviews, Dec 4, 2013)