- Among a group of 665 urologists in California, those with more patients tended to have lower online patient ratings than the urologists with fewer patients, according to a research letter in JAMA.
- The review of 2014 Medicare data found the doctors' ratings dropped 0.04 for every 100 patients.
- More research is need to understand the factors associated with patient satisfaction and whether the results apply to non-Medicare patients, the authors said.
The study looked at the urologists' ratings on four websites: Ratemd.com, Healthgrades.com, Vitals.com and Yelp.com. For the 665 doctors, the mean total number of reviews across the websites was 10.
“Research in other specialties suggests that patients with busier practices have longer wait times and spend less time with patients, which are major drivers of ratings,” the research letter says. “Univariable analysis suggested that ratings were actually poorer for doctors who billed for more services. For urologists, many of these services are invasive procedures, which may contribute to lower ratings.
When patients aren't feeling well, they typically want to see their doctor as soon as possible. Having to wait days or weeks for an appointment can push patients to seek care elsewhere in emergency rooms, urgent care centers or retail clinics. Some doctors have implemented same-day scheduling — setting aside blocks of appointments — to accommodate patients who want to be seen sooner than later.
Patients’ ideas of a quality experience can vary, too. For some it may be short wait times, while others are concerned about convenience or whether they’re treated kindly and with respect. In a University of California-Davis study, patients rated their doctors 10 to 20 points lower when specific requests were denied than when those requests were fulfilled.
Regardless of the reason, providers can’t afford to ignore online ratings. According to an ongoing athenahealth study, patients’ ratings on Yelp and other sites mirror HCAHPS survey results and should be taken seriously.
Experts advise doctors to proactively manage their online reputation and encourage their patients to post comments when they’ve had a positive experience. Disgruntled patients are more likely to vent online, and having those positive ratings can help offset poor ones. They can also help to attract prospective patients.
One thing experts advise not to do is discount negative reviews. “There may be a reason why they had that negative experience, so maybe there’s additional explanation” a provider can offer to change that impression, Nate Closser, manager of SEO and directory management at Influence Health, a provider of software solutions for reputation management, told Healthcare Dive last year.