In healthcare, “Trust, but verify” applies to online physician ratings given the fact that 81% of consumers will still check out a doctor online despite being given a strong referral from their primary care doctor

Healthcare consumers seem to be embracing a Russian proverb when it comes to online physician reviews and ratings: “Doveryai, no proveryai.” In English it means “Trust, but verify,” and it was a phrase made famous by Ronald Reagan in the 1980s during nuclear arms negotiations with Russian general secretary Mikhail Gorbachev.

In healthcare, “Trust, but verify” also seemingly applies to online physician reviews and ratings given the fact that 81% of consumers will still check out a doctor online and read other patient comments and ratings despite being given a strong referral from their primary care doctor. That finding is among several ways consumers use online physician ratings and reviews to vet doctors, says a new survey of 1,700 consumers by digital healthcare and reputation management company Doctor.com.

90% of consumers also will frequently change their mind about a referral if the provider has bad, poor or weak reviews.

Consumers increasingly are taking to the web to find and check out doctors. The survey finds that 80% of consumers have used the internet to make a healthcare-related search in the past year. Consumers (60%) also now expect their experience to search, find, check out doctors and book an appointment online to “mirror that of retail.”

Consumers as patients also have big customer service expectations: 82% of survey respondents believe the healthcare industry should consistently meet or exceed their expectations as a consumer. “Today’s patient has high expectations and more control than ever when it comes to where they seek care,” the survey says. “They have no qualms about shopping around for a healthcare provider, and they demand an outstanding consumer experience from the beginning.”

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The survey finds that more consumers (56%) prefer to use a desktop computer to search online for healthcare rather than a mobile device. Using the web also isn’t just limited to younger consumers, given that 76% of survey respondents over 60 have searched online for healthcare in the past year.

Other survey findings include:

  • Nearly 60% of respondents have chosen one provider over another based on a positive online reputation.
  • 45% of patients prefer to use digital methods to request an appointment through online scheduling via a website, app or e-mail.
  • 82% of respondents ranked customer service as the most important factor influencing their loyalty to a provider.
  • 63% of consumers will choose one provider over another because of a strong online presence.
  • 45% of consumers prefer to make appointments online.
  • 53% of patients will likely change their minds about a provider with less than three stars.

“The fact that 81% of patients will read reviews about a provider, even after they’ve been referred, indicates that we’ve entered a truly consumerist era of healthcare,” says Doctor.com CEO Andrei Zimiles. “Patients depend on online sources of information more so than ever and are using all of the digital tools available to inform themselves and make healthcare decisions.”

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