Mayo Clinic Study on Negative Online Physician Reviews

May 10, 2018

Our Thoughts on Mayo Clinic’s Study on Negative Online Physician Reviews

By: Aaron Clifford

Last month, Becker’s Spine Review and several other healthcare news outlets reported on a study of online reviews by the Mayo Clinic. Researchers used Google alerts and searches to track negative online reviews of Mayo Clinic physicians for several months back in late 2014. Next, the researchers compared these doctors’ Press Ganey Patient Satisfaction Survey scores with those of other Mayo Clinic physicians who did not receive negative online reviews. The comparison revealed no statistical differences between overall scores or patient communication scores, leading to the conclusion in the Becker’s headline that negative online reviews of doctors do not affect patient satisfaction surveys. The article goes on to describe how a negative review of a physician might be influenced by events beyond the doctor’s control: staff interaction, waiting room time, billing issues and even directions and office parking are underlying factors in some complaints.

We at Binary Fountain welcome this study, and all similar research. It broaches the need for a conversation around the value of the patient voice, whether it’s expressed online or through a survey, and how we can better evaluate their online ratings.

Reading the Mayo study, yes you can say there is a difference between how patient experience survey data and online reviews are captured. Patient satisfaction surveys are delivered in a more formal, structured format where patient feedback is sought out and rigorously analyzed by a provider of patient experience measurement solutions, like Press Ganey.  With online reviews, the feedback is unprompted. The patient or caregiver went out of their way to share their experience. In both cases, the patient believes their experience matters and is worth being voiced. That is powerful and should be taken seriously, no matter through which medium it’s delivered.

In cases where there are less online reviews than patient survey responses for a provider, there is the chance that an online rating may increase or decrease more than a survey’s rating scores.  Our customers are seeing that the more online reviews generated for providers, the closer the online reviews/ratings match the patient experience survey scores. The Mayo study also remarks that online reviews provide an “incomplete depiction of the physician’s reputation and his or her true commitment to and expertise in patient care.” Taking the approach of increasing patient feedback, from both online reviews and surveys, will help provide a more comprehensive picture of physicians.

With all the back and forth about online ratings and reviews, there is one thing to keep in mind: ratings and reviews are not going away. Our own survey, released late last year, reveals that 30 percent of consumers share their healthcare experiences online, via ratings and review sites and social media. 95 percent of our survey respondents regard online ratings and reviews as “somewhat” to “very” reliable, and 75 percent said that online ratings and review sites have influenced their decision when choosing a physician.

With the popularity of online ratings and reviews, it is important for providers and consumers to undertstand “the why” behind a star rating. Online feedback needs to be rigorously analyzed.  That’s one reason why we built Provider Social Index® (PSI), which aggregates online patient feedback about physicians and then uses our proprietary Natural Language Processing (NLP) engine to extract insights and derive a rating related to 10 patient experience metrics. It excludes all non-provider categories like front desk staff, wait time and billing. This makes online reviews useful to providers and patients in the same way that survey results are. On the provider side, the insights helps identify where a physician is doing well, and where improvements can be made. Consumers looking for a new provider benefit from a comprehensive, clearer view into a physician’s reputation.  This is what our industry should be striving to deliver. Binary Fountain works to make online reviews work for all of us.

We are proud of our new partnership with US News & World Report as the provider of physician ratings displayed on US News’ doctor profile pages. One reason US News chooses to work with Binary Fountain is that our NLP’s formula/algorithm is scientifically developed and published in a peer-reviewed journal. Another is that we don’t display ratings if there aren’t enough reviews of a particular physician to be statistically useful. The richness and recency of reviews are also accounted for when analyzing reviews.

The Mayo study emphasizes physicians need to be aware of their reputation both online and in-person and recommends using their patient satisfaction surveys scores to:

“build and manage their online reputation, which in this day and age is crucial for public perception. Physicians could also take this opportunity to use social media to underscore these formal PSS (patient satisfaction surveys) reviews, counteract negative open source reviews, and help ensure a positive online presence. Furthermore, physicians and their institutions in a more appropriate setting can proactively manage any negative formal patient reviews and prevent having physicians’ reputation negatively affected across the World Wide Web.”

We couldn’t agree more. Our solutions take this approach, helping providers manage online reputation and publishing patient experience survey data. Binary Star Rating helps healthcare organizations, like Providence St. Joseph Health, Unity Point and Dayton Children’s Hospital, publish patitent experience survey coments and star ratings to their physician profile pages. Our strategic partnership with Press Ganey provides health systems with the guidance and support they need as they go down this path to taking control of their online reputation. We also provide a centralized healthcare-specific online reputation management platform, Binary Health Analytics, that helps organizations proactively analyze and act on all patient online ratings and reviews as well as patient experience surveys. Many health systems and practices are now engaging with their patients online and gaining insights into how where they can improve the patient experience.

So, let’s encourage more research on how to make the voice of the patient a driving factor in our efforts to improve patient experience, and how to publish online ratings and reviews that are accurate and reliable.

About the Author

Aaron Clifford
SVP of Marketing

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