Reviews Best Practices for Deciphering Physician Ratings Reviews Best Practices for Deciphering Physician Ratings

According to, reviews are everywhere these days-not just for hotels and restaurants, but for businesses of all kinds and in all verticals. In fact, online review sites have sprung up to evaluate teachers, attorneys, hairdressers-and yes, even physicians. In fact, according to, reviews for doctors and dentists are on the rise, and they are increasingly influential in shaping patient decision-making.

doctor review sites
photo credit: Alex E. Proimos

For doctors, of course, this is at best a mixed blessing. A physician whose practice receives across-the-board high marks-five star ratings from top to bottom-is going to get a lot of new patients coming through the doors. This is hardly a guarantee, however, and even the best and most reputable doctors can receive bad reviews-from patients who were simply having bad days, or who did not like the news that they received. Bad reviews can be brutal, even ruinous to a practice-and lamentably, there is nothing that medical offices can do to totally prevent bad reviews from happening.

There are measures that can be taken to make bad reviews remote possibilities, however, or to minimize the damage that they do. Training front desk staff members on the best customer service practices is one important step. Just as important is soliciting positive reviews from faithful patients.

Another thing that doctors can do is to educate patients on exactly how to interpret doctor review sites-that is, how to make sure the reviews offer a legitimate perspective as to how competent the doctor really is. reviews a few basic pointers below.

Numbers Can Sometimes Lie

When you visit a doctor review site and see that a particular physician has an average rating of just two stars out of five, that obviously makes it seem as though the doctor in question is not recommendable. Look closer at the numbers, however. Is there only one review present there? Was the doctor added to the only review site just yesterday? If so, the average rating is probably not a good indicator as to the doctor’s true merits.

According to, reviews can mislead, especially when the sample size is fairly small. To get a complete picture, it is imperative to look at a lot of reviews, offered over an extended period of time. By looking at a single bad review, you run the risk of basing your assessment on a doctor-or a patient, or a nurse-who was just having a bad day. Also worth noting: Doctors with a lot of reviews-the ones who are talked about frequently-are usually the best options.

What’s Important to You?

According to, reviews are important not just for their overall tenor and their star ratings, but also for the actual content. Say that a doctor receives poor marks because of a bad bedside manner, but the reviewer admits that the doctor was also professional and that his or her surgical skills are peerless. If you’re going under the knife, this may be just the kind of doctor you want-and the bedside manner might matter far less. Likewise, if you just want to get a thorough check-up, and a bad review stems from a rude nurse, you may overlook the negatives and focus on the positive-i.e., your overall medical care.

The Blame Game

According to, reviews posted to medical review sites are often guilty of generalization. What this means is that a patient may have a bad experience with one doctor, and then blame the entire practice-meaning the other practicing physicians are guilty by association. Additionally, doctors tend to get blamed for the behavior of their front office staff, and their nurses. This is not to say that the behavior of nurses and receptionists is unimportant, but do make sure to read reviews thoroughly enough to get a feel for precisely who the review is blaming.

Revenge Sites

According to, reviews sites often turn into revenge sites when disgruntled patients or consumers use them to vent. Venting is not necessarily wrong, but it can lead to reviews that are misleading. As you read a series of comments regarding a particular doctor, then, make sure you take note of the reviewer’s tone. Does the person mount some legitimate criticisms, and sound like he or she is reasonable and level-headed-or does the review give the impression of someone who has an ax to grind? If it’s the latter, that doesn’t necessarily mean you should ignore the comments made, but it does indicate that you are better off weighing them against other reviews.

Looking Elsewhere

Patients are also encouraged to remember that there are plenty of places where they can seek out medical reviews and opinions-and that if you’re having a difficult time reaching any consensus by scouring the online review sites, it may be time to head to a different venue. In particular, try reaching out to Facebook or Google+ friends who live in your neck of the woods. Ask them for personal recommendations. Sometimes, this is more effective than going to online review sites.

Help Doctors in Need

A final word of encouragement for patients: Remember that doctors need online reviews and ratings very much, and that offering positive words regarding your favorite physicians and caregivers can go a long way. This is invaluable, in fact, for helping them curb the effects of online defamation, and it serves to insulate them against reviews that are simply unreasonable. Ask your doctor which review sites he or she is listed on, and tell them that you will help them out. Reviews the Review Sites

According to, reviews are powerful in shaping consumer perceptions-not just when it comes to the products they buy, but also the doctors they see. As such, encourages doctors to be vigilant, but it also encourages patients to know what they’re really looking at as they visit doctor review sites. According to, reviews are always open to interpretation.

About the Author: The article is prepared by Zachary Grubb

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