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7 Surprising Ways Negative Physician Reviews Can Be Positive

Constructive patient reviews may feel like a double-edged sword, but even negative feedback can have benefits.

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Getting a low-rated review as a healthcare professional can be surprising, and you may worry about how it will affect patient bookings. However, an "almost-perfect" rating may actually be better than a perfect review, based on research and patient feedback.

Negative reviews may not have as much of an impact on patient engagement and opinions as you might think. In some cases, having a few critical reviews can even be beneficial.

1. Having more reviews — positive or negative — leads to more engagement and patient bookings

Results from a 2020 Healthgrades study show that having reviews, and more specifically a higher overall volume of reviews, increases engagement and the likelihood of new patient bookings.

Consumers are more likely to choose a healthcare professional with a higher volume of reviews than a professional with a perfect rating based on a lower volume of reviews. For instance, 64% of consumers prefer a physician with 4 out of 5 stars and 25 patient responses over one with 5 out of 5 stars and only three responses, according to a Healthgrades 2018 analysis.

Healthcare professionals with three to six surveys got 3.3 times more profile views compared to healthcare professionals with zero. Also, healthcare professionals with 7 to 12 reviews received 5 times more appointment requests than professionals without reviews.

While negative reviews may not always seem preferable, they still contribute to your volume of reviews and the reviews' credibility.

2. Patients tend not to trust perfect ratings

A 2016 data analysis from Northwestern University’s Spiegel Research Center and PowerReviews researched the link between overall ratings and consumer influence.

The results suggest that consumers are more influenced by ratings between 4.2 and 4.5 than by 5-star average ratings. Reviewers explain that this effect results from doubts about the authenticity of 5-star ratings, and an idea that they may be too good to be true.

While high-scoring reviews are still important, having a few constructive reviews can help show patients that your feedback is based on authentic interactions. This may, in turn, make patients more likely to trust positive feedback.

Get tips from Healthgrades on how to tell your story and make the most of your profile.

3. Most patients ignore exaggerated or unreasonable negative reviews

Most patients dismiss negative reviews that seem unreasonable or exaggerated, according to Software Advice’s 2020 Master Patient Experience Survey.

This shows that patients can be discerning when reading medical professional reviews and don’t necessarily believe everything they read automatically. As a result, patients often spot when negative feedback is not appropriate or fair.

Patients also disregard negative reviews if they recognize that the negative issue reported wouldn’t apply to them.

4. Individual positive reviews remain powerful

In a 2022 study of how consumers review products, researchers looked at how overall ratings and individual reviews affect purchase decisions.

Researchers from the study note that overall ratings are still important to users. However, the content of the top-scoring reviews is often more influential than overall ratings, as long as the overall rating is at least middle-range.

For example, when comparing two options, the content of individual top reviews may sway final decisions more than overall ratings.

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5. Overall ratings are not always the most important factor

Even if you have a lower overall rating than you would like, patients may still prioritize other factors from your profile.

A 2018 analysis from Healthgrades cited research from Yext that shows patients also consider the following factors:

  • Wait times: Patients dealing with minor health issues tend to rely less on average ratings if you have shorter wait times than similar physicians.
  • Profile pictures: If you have a profile picture, patients are more likely to opt for you over physicians with no photo. This highlights the importance of personal connection to patients.
  • Years of experience: Around 61% of consumers preferred physicians with 4 out of 5 stars and 20 years of experience over physicians with 5 out of 5 stars and 4 years of experience. This preference is particularly prevalent among millennials and consumers without chronic health problems.

6. Balanced responses to negative reviews can improve patient perspectives

The 2020 survey from Software Advice reports that around 36% of patients disregard negative reviews if you reply to them considerately.

Responding to negative feedback thoughtfully also gives you the opportunity to show strong bedside manner and communication skills — some of the most important themes to patients looking at reviews. Try to view negative reviews as a chance to show the sensitivity, balance, and professionalism you can offer in your care.

Learn Healthgrades best practices for responding to patient reviews.

7. Less-than-perfect reviews may help you better your practice

Sometimes, a negative review may be unfair or inaccurate. However, less-than-perfect reviews often include constructive feedback or suggestions. Such reviews may provide important insight into patient experience and offer valuable information to improve how your practice offers care.

The bottom line

While negative reviews may not seem ideal, they may have minimal or even positive impacts on overall patient engagement and perception.

Factors such as considerate responses to critical feedback, your overall rating, individual positive reviews, and a high volume of reviews can all diminish any negative impacts.

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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.