Patients’ Online Reviews Are Misleading Says Study

Online reviews are every cosmetic practitioner’s backbone when it comes to acquiring new patients. Especially for plastic surgeons, websites like google, facebook, or realself present a valuable, and free marketing platform potential future patients use to check a doctor’s reputation.

Good reviews can have a tremendous impact on someone’s decision to make a booking as users trust online reviews to be unbiased and truthful, therefore expecting to be in ‘good hands’ when their surgeon of choice has received praise online.

However, the flip side of this is that negative reviews can shatter someone’s reputation, and potentially drive patients away. This becomes a problem when negative reviews are written based on others factors besides the surgical result and overall experience.

A new study by Northwestern Medicine found that many online reviews included comments on a surgeon’s support staff and factors like how quickly the team answer the phone, how nice the staff is in their interactions, the wait time and bedside manner. While all of this is obviously important when it comes to overall customer service, the problem that arises is that average ratings for a particular surgeon may be skewed because of something that was out of his/her hands.

“The important thing used to be how the surgery turned out,” senior study author Dr. John Kim said. “Our study shows what’s almost equally important are things we wouldn’t have thought of like how quickly we answer the phone […]. Service is becoming paramount and almost as important as tangible results and outcomes.”

Also surprising is that the cost of procedures tends to be less important to most reviewers than interactions with staff, and also that most reviews were either really negative (1 star) or really positive (5 stars). “Unhappy patients take up more screen ‘real estate’ than happy patients, posting longer reviews, which creates a bias of dissatisfaction in online ratings,” said first study author Rob Dorfman, a fourth-year student at Feinberg.

“You could have been practicing quietly and humbly for 20 years, but patients think someone with 1,000 reviews, even though they have much less experience, must be better,” Kim said. “So the ubiquity and quality of online reviews may increasingly substitute for experience and ability.”

Another issue is ‘fake reviews’ written by people that have never been to the business, which can bring a business’s rating down for no valid reason. It’s important to contact review sites if you find fake reviews as in some cases, they can be removed if there is enough evidence they’re not legit.

The best thing to do to combat misleading reviews is, of course, to offer your patients no reason to write negative comments in the first place.