The Reality of Reviews

Internet reviews have become a common factor in how we evaluate goods and services we are interested in purchasing. These reviews may be written by anyone at any time without any significant oversight. Thus, some one as credible as Roger Ebert, or Mrs. Jones who lives down the street and goes to the movies once or twice a year might review a movie and the review is given the same weight and presence on an internet website. And, even more interesting, a movie’s competition might hire a group of students or bloggers to write bad reviews about a movie just to knock its ratings down.

Welcome to the world of Internet reviews for physicians. Anyone can write anything any time about any doctor whether they are a patient or not, whether they have seen the doctor or not, and whether their opinion is based on treatments received or not. It is the wild west of opinion! No one is watching what is posted on the Internet and the websites themselves have simply stated that they are not responsible for the content on their sites. Let the buyer beware!

Of particular concern is the fact that patients are using the internet as their primary source for medical information anywhere from 50-80% of the time. So, if the internet reviews are a part of the way a patient chooses a physician, what if they choose someone whose reviews are gleaming, but all falsified? What if the patient reads reviews that are written by a competitor designed to steer patients elsewhere when in reality they need the very doctor from who they are turning away? What if a patient that was turned down by the practice writes the reviews? These scenarios are happening on a regular basis and there is no way to guard against them. The problem is that many patients feel that if it is on the Internet, then it is official and verified. This is not true. No one is verifying patient reviews.

Then how does a patient read the review sites without being derailed from choosing the correct doctor? The way to do this is to read as many reviews as possible and try to find the overall tone of the body of information. Be sure to read the testimonials on the physicians website as these are posted from patient letters and reviews sent in to the office and represent the physician’s happiest patients.
Another approach is to take out the very worst review and the very best review and read everything in the middle. Then, one can get a sense of the tone of the reviews. Another approach is to call the office and see if they have anything to say about the reviews.

The concern physicians have is that the very best doctors who do the most surgery and have the most patients are also the ones that are going to have the most reviews, both positive and negative. Furthermore, the doctors that take the hardest cases will probably get the most attention on both the positive and negative side. Again, this all becomes quite confusing for the patient who is browsing the Internet to find a physician to help them. Some doctors may have no reviews or a few from some happy family members or star patients. This makes their Internet profile look very good and could actually appear to be more competent then a world expert with a few jealous competitors. All of this makes it hard to evaluate the Internet reviews.