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Feature | Nov/Dec 2017

Word of Mouth: New Research Shows Which Review Sites Carry the Most Weight

Cultivating a winning review strategy is one of the most important ways to accrue patients and of course, profits.

If you are starting out or starting over, you will soon realize that online reviews matter … a lot.

As a category, healthcare is second only to restaurants and hotels with regard to consumer use of reviews for buying decisions, according to BrightLocal.

Cultivating a winning review strategy is one of the most important ways to accrue patients and of course, profits.

In fact, a study in Psychological Science finds that if two similar products have the same rating, shoppers will buy the one with more reviews. (Put another way: reviews equal revenue).

A review strategy that is working well for a restaurant or hotel may not work as well for an elective health care business, largely because there are so many more healthcare-specific review sites including HealthGrades, Realself, RateMDs, Vitals, UCompareHealth, ZocDoc, to name just a few.

To complicate matters further, the major review sites like Google and Yelp display separate reviews for the practice (one for each location) and its individual surgeons. This means that a cosmetic surgery practice with three surgeons could have as many as 8 review profiles between Google and Yelp alone, and that’s just for one location. For each additional location, multiply by the number of locations - OUCH!

It’s a bit of a Wild-Wild-West environment out there, which is why we conducted a comprehensive survey via our educational portal, Your Plastic Surgery Guide (www.yourplasticsurgeryguide.com), to gather some hard data on which review sites matter and which ones don’t.

Visitors were asked seven questions related to their use of the Internet and reviews when researching plastic surgeons and cosmetic surgery procedures. The survey received more than 250 respondents in 30 days.

Nearly 78 percent (77.5%) of individuals find reviews to be an extremely important way to gather information about prospective plastic surgeons, while 19.9% find reviews to be somewhat important and just 2.6% feel that reviews are not important.

The most surprising results came from questions related to which review sites are perceived to be the most valuable. This type of data is very important because it provides insight as to whether surgeons can limit their reviews strategy to only a few sites or if they need to focus on a variety of review sites to capture the attention of a wide range of consumers.

The two questions we asked were:

  • Which review sites are most important when researching a plastic surgeon?
  • Which review sites are least important when researching a plastic surgeon?

Google received the highest number of votes as the most important review site, while Realself and HealthGrades, ranked No. 2 and No. 3, respectively, and all healthcare-specific review sites scored well. However, Facebook, which many review companies promote as an important site, did not fare well among a significant number of consumers. Facebook received the most number of votes as the least important site, followed by Yellow Pages, and then, surprisingly, Yelp. The healthcare-specific review sites did not receive many “least important” votes.

Consumers place high value on reviews when researching aesthetic surgeons, but they can, and do, place vastly different value on different sites. A review strategy that only focuses on soliciting reviews for a few sites, like Google, Yelp and Facebook, which is what some marketing and reviews companies suggest, is NOT a good call. Yes, adopting this strategy will attract prospective patients who voted for Google as the most important review site, but it will have no effect on those who gave Facebook and Yelp the thumbs down. Furthermore, this strategy ignores the significant value of the healthcare-specific review sites, which received high marks.

David Evans, PhD, MBA

David Evans, PhD, MBA, is the CEO of Ceatus Media Group, based in San Diego. He can be reached at devans@ceatus.com.

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