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Online Reviews: Payers Are Paying Attention Too


Online reviews are no longer a forum for patients to judge you, payers are increasingly making them a priority.

Gone are the days when online reviews were just for hotels and restaurants. Today healthcare providers are every bit as likely to get reviewed as the local diner on Yelp.

But while Yelp (and other platforms like it) can help or hinder your reputation, when providers are poorly reviewed it can affect patients’ access to those providers. Worse, poor reviews may negatively impact physician scores and limited their ability to participate in payer networks too. 

Take for example United Healthcare’s recently upgraded online physician directory. Haven’t looked yourself up recently (if ever)? Now is the time. What you will find there may be scary but it is better to know how your profile is being presented to patients and do something to improve it, than simply lose patients over time as those reviews impact your participation status.

Here’s what you can expect to see. First go to the United Healthcare directory (https://www.uhc.com/find-a-physician). Look yourself up by name and you should be able to see under the results some key pieces of information, including a number of stars under your name. Beside the stars you will see the number of reviews that are driving that star score. Clicking on the stars will bring you to the ‘Patient Reviews’ section and there you will find details about how patients have rated you under ‘Provider Experience’ and ‘Office and Staff Experience’. Where do they come from? These reviews are generated from a tie-in with Healthgrades, a company that “allows patients to rate their satisfaction with healthcare providers after their appointment and makes this data available to the public."

So while you may have cultivated great patient reviews on Facebook, Yelp and other social media platforms, payers are looking to Healthgrades for your reputation. When patients go to the online directory looking for a physician, in addition to seeing if you are top tier, premium designation and whether you are above or below average cost, these are reviews that they will see rather than your social media ones.  Over time, these reviews may be attributed a weight that affects your overall score with certain payers, affecting patients ability to choose you for their care. That is, many employers are tiering benefits based on selecting physicians that are in higher tiers. For example, a physician with two ‘hearts’ qualifies under the Premium tier and the patient’s copay may be less than selecting a physician who ranks in a lower tier. For more information on this, click here.

Improve Your Reviews Today

Make it a priority to invite patients to review you online at Healthgrades. That might seem like a scary proposition, but if you do it right the results can be outstanding.

First, train your front desk and / or nursing staff to ask patients at the end of the visit how their visit went. If there is any discord, it allows you and your staff to address the problem there and reducing the likelihood of a patient taking to a public forum to vent about it.

Second, if the patient responds that they had a good visit, ask them if they would be kind enough to go online and write a review. Several retailers have adopted this approach, whereby when they hand your receipt they circle some details on it asking you to take an online survey and let them know how they did. While you may not be inclined to do so after a quick trip to Lowe’s or Home Depot, when it comes to physicians, happy patients are often much more likely to take the time to share that good experience. 

Third, make it as easy as possible for the patient to write the review. Print business sized cards that list instructions for Healthgrades.com (and any other social media channels you have that you’d like them to visit too). Having the details handy makes it easy for patients to go to the right place.  Alternatively, have a tablet, screen or iPad at check out and ask patients if they would like to write a review of their visit there and then. You’ll be surprised how many patients do so before they leave the office.

There will always be unhappy patients and those that like to publicly share those details. But if you employ a strategy of asking all of your patients to write reviews, any negative ones will be quickly drowned out by the positives. Remember, the goal is to get high ratings and that is far more likely if you have a significant volume of reviews in the first place. Asking your patients about their experience at your practice is also good customer service and a policy that allows you to improve your efforts on an every day basis too.

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