Shooting for Five-Star Ratings? Online Reviews Provide Feedback and Opportunity to Manage Reputation

August 1, 2013

by Sheryl S. Jackson

Sheryl S. JacksonOnly direct word-of-mouth recommendations from friends and family beat online reviews as the most trusted source of information, according to a 2012 Pepperdine University study. Even after receiving a personal recommendation, 86 percent of survey respondents say they would also use an online source to research a business or professional before contacting the organization or individual.

While online review sites such as Yelp, Google+, or Yahoo! Local are used for a wide variety of service businesses such as restaurants, an increasing number of people turn to the sites to search for, or to post comments about, health care providers. In fact, in the Pepperdine study, more than 150 of the 236 respondents indicated they would use online sites to find or comment on medical and health care professionals.

“In today’s health care environment, customer satisfaction is fundamental to a hospital’s survival,” says Kevin Andrus, executive director of public rela­tions for Huntington Hospital in Pasadena, CA. Not only do unhappy cus­tomers choose to go to different facilities for care after a poor experience, but reimbursement models such as the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ Hospital Value-Based Purchasing Program tie a hospital’s Medicare reimbursement to metrics that include patient satisfaction. “We might wait weeks or months for feedback through traditional survey methods, but monitoring online reviews provides real-time feedback that we can address immediately,” Andrus says.

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