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By Timothy Snyder, Jr.

I was reading a Bloomberg Technology article recently, that came to an attention grabbing conclusion – online health care ratings are essentially fraudulent and show no correlation between actual patient satisfaction ratings or clinical performance (see Don’t Yelp Your Doctor. Study Finds Ratings Are All Wrong).

None of this is very surprising to me, as it validates what I’ve been saying for the past few years:

  1. Online ratings and reviews, whether accurate or not, are playing a huge role in consumer decision-making
  2. The responsibility of having positive ratings and reviews lies with your marketing team – not your clinical staff
  3. To achieve positive ratings and reviews, your organization must invest in a digital marketing program

I’m not saying that actual care and clinical performance are just commodities by any stretch. However, in competitive markets, better products frequently lose out to better marketing – and thinking health care is different is an age old mistake made by executives in many fields. While having the best product or the highest performing service is a real advantage, it will have little impact on consumer decision-making without a proper marketing strategy. In a competitive environment, consumer awareness and perception (the strength of your brand) tends to differentiate competitors and ultimately separates the success stories from the “what could have been” stories (see Why Branding As Strategy Matters More and Health Care Branding Has Evolved – Be A Golden Brand).

Organizations that were willing to invest more in digital marketing strategies understand the power of perception. In our current web-connected world, consumers prefer the ability to make their own informed decisions. The preferred vehicle to become informed? The internet. And, as predicted in Google surveys, consumers trust the internet more than any other source to make decisions on their health care provider. Furthermore, the behavioral tendencies of consumers during the purchasing decision cycle is no different in health care than in other fields. The most trusted information on the internet to a consumer is ratings and reviews of other consumers who have purchased the service.

What does all of this mean? Having high ratings or rankings on the five key health care ratings sites and key social platforms is the most critical element to any strategy aimed at acquiring new consumers, or growing the business that you already have. Essentially, if you’re competing for new customers, or trying to gain a higher percentage of the consumer population, online ratings are quickly becoming the most important factor.

If you think that online ratings don’t matter for you, my assumption is that your organization is not looking for new consumers with health insurance that gives them the ability to choose a professional or provider organization – or with the willingness to pay out-of-pocket. But if that isn’t the case, the first question you should ask your marketing team is, “what is our online reputation?” And, the second question is, “what are you doing about it?”

For more, check out these resources from the OPEN MINDS Industry Library:

  1. Therapists & Online Reviews – Where Is The Ethical Line?
  2. Before You Respond To That Online Review.
  3. Pay-For-Value & Mental Health Treatment – Reading The Tea Leaves
  4. Yelp & ProPublica Collaborate To Give Consumers Health Care Facilities Data
  5. Yelp Comes To Health Care – One More Reason For Online Reputation Management
  6. Succeeding In The Online Ratings Game – First, Know The Score
  7. Succeeding In The Online Ratings Game – Second, You Need A Plan
  8. SEO Basics For Health & Human Service Professionals
  9. 5 Keys For Optimizing Your Online Brand
  10. Why Branding As Strategy Matters More

And for even more, join me on September 28 for my session, “Managing Personal Technology & Building Your Online Presence” at The 2017 OPEN MINDS Executive Leadership Retreat.

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