Healthcare Marketing Monday: Transparency Through Online Consumer Ratings

Doctors and patients both agree that there is a need for increased transparency in the healthcare industry. While many more businesses within this industry are adopting social media, it is still can be a somewhat dangerous, or complicated, venture.

When I first made the move to Seattle, I was told to find a doctor. After calling my insurance agent to see what doctors and clinics accepted my coverage, I wasn’t sure where to look next. I’m picky, much in the same way I am with my food. And then it clicked – Yelp.

The power of consumer ratings 

While Yelp is primarily know for restaurant and service reviews, its influence in the healthcare industry is increasing. There is enormous power in online consumer reviews and ratings, which was been proven by sites such as Amazon, Google, Trip Advisor, etc.

And it’s not just on Yelp. Online rating and review sites such as Angie’s List, and Rate MDs, have a growing number of patients that rate their physicians and hospitals on a variety of factors. Wait time, service, treatment, even doctor’s physical attributes are reviewed online.

It’s interesting that doctors have been, for the most part, able to avoid public customer reviews. In most industries, businesses want and encourage consumer reviews because it increases exposure of their product. In the case of an excellent consumer review, the business essentially receives free advertising in the form of a testimonial that can be shared across multiple outlets to potential customers.

Why the silence? Most doctors are worried that reviewers will comment on matters other than their professional and clinical skills, such as their appearance or bedside manner. One biased review could ruin the reputation of a doctor and turn away thousands of patients if not temporarily, then potentially forever.

However, isn’t this somewhat the healthcare industries fault? Due to the lack of reliable, accessible, and understandable information, patients have had to rely on each other. Empowering patients with relevant information is a vital step in this process.


Both consumers and businesses in the healthcare industry can expect more, not less online consumer commentary about healthcare services in the future. Patients want and need better information. Rating systems are expected to improve in both volume and validity.  Transparency about safety, quality, price and service will help the entire system (on both sides) improve.

Ultimately, as consumers and patients, we should promise to provide and receive honest feedback online. Without this, we all suffer.

Published March 5, 2013 by Luke Severn.
Categories: Healthcare Marketing, Yelp