Americans are information-hungry and, thanks to the Internet, there’s plenty of data to be found – especially when it comes to healthcare. According to the Pew Research Center, over 70 percent of people look for healthcare information on the web. Moreover, 77 percent of consumers admit they use the Internet at the outset of their search for a new healthcare provider.
The problem, of course, is that not everything we read online is factual. In fact, with the exception of mainstream media such as the The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, information online is often skewed. It’s called “marketing,” and it’s often onesided and not 100 percent reliable.
A study completed by Invespro truly underscores the importance of reviews, as well as the impact negative reviews can have on a doctor or healthcare practice.
• Positive reviews make a practice seem more trustworthy, according to 72 percent of patients surveyed.
• If a local doctor has a five-star rating, they are going to earn more patients; 92 percent of people surveyed said that “stars” are a determining factor in choosing a physician.
• Before even trusting a healthcare professional, the vast majority of patients (who read reviews) said they read at least four online reviews.
It’s easy to understand why bogus reviews present a huge challenge for physicians, hospitals and healthcare practices around the country. It’s so easy for anyone to post a review, but there’s no way to know if it’s bogus, or unfair. Further, there are companies out there that permit people to “buy” reviews – good for themselves or bad for a competitor – which truly makes the entire concept of online reviews unpredictable and practically a waste of time.
Unfortunately, this isn’t stopping disgruntled patients from writing doctor reviews. In most cases, reviews posted on Healthgrades or Yelp, and other sites can’t even be responded to or refuted by the healthcare professional or practice (due to privacy laws.)
Bogus Complaints Send the Wrong Message
Consider a story about a woman who was very clearly addicted to pain medication. According to the director of a major New Jersey healthcare practice, she came to the office complaining of pain and requesting pain medication. “She was refused pain meds due to her obvious prescription abuse history,” he said. “However, she took the opportunity to write a review about our practice. She wrote that no one here cared about her pain. She clearly misrepresented the facts.”
Due to HIPAA laws, the practice is unable to respond to “bogus” complaints like that, leaving healthcare practices helpless to refute bad information. “People read these kinds of one-sided, unfair reviews and make a decision that the practice is not compassionate,” he added.
In another case, a patient showed up at a specialist’s office without a referral from his primary care physician. The paperwork snafu caused an extended stay in the waiting room which obviously angered the patient. He wrote a review of the practice complaining about the horrible wait time. A review like this is biased and unfair and is not truly representative of the practice.
According to a report printed in JAMA, the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association, “commercial physicianrating websites have significant limitations.”
While the number of physician reviews online are increasing, the reviews observed by the study were not meaningful. “It is difficult for a prospective patient to find (for any given physician on any commercial physician-rating website) a quantity of reviews that would accurately relay the experience of care with that physician,” according to JAMA.
NJ Healthcare Practices Seriously Injured by Bogus Online Reviews
Moazam Gazi, administrator for University Urology Associates of NJ, says bogus online reviews are a problem faced by most, if not all, healthcare practices. Unless a practice is large enough to have a team of people monitoring social media and online review sites, doctors and healthcare practices face substantial risk to their public image, Mr. Gazi said.
“The conversations on these review boards are almost exclusively one-sided due to HIPAA laws. People feel that it’s a place to vent and discuss their personal care,” he explained. “But it doesn’t give a physician or practice the ability to respond in kind due ethical considerations. Additionally, practices are often very negatively affected by bogus reviews stemming from insurance issues like copays that have nothing to do with quality of medical care.
“Bottom line”, Gazi added, “people should be careful about where they go for their reviews.”
“Taking Reviews with a Grain of Salt”
Many people interviewed said they regularly look at reviews when considering a healthcare professional for their own, or their family’s, care. But suspicions abound.
“I read reviews but I take them with a grain of salt because of the bad experiences I’ve have with docs who were given rave reviews. I do admit, though, that I am more influenced by negative reviews compared to 100% glowing reviews.” — Sue M., Robbinsville
“I know the internet has trolls. It could be someone’s just posting negative comments to be mean. It could be the doc did make a medical mistake once, but is otherwise a great doc. It could be the doc aggravated the commenter in some realm other than medical, and the comment is a revenge posting.” — Jennie P., Hamilton
“I am usually suspect of every review and can’t help but wonder if they were planted. That’s just my suspicious nature. I do not to trust them nor do I base my choices on them.” — Nancy R., Howell
Many consumers look to friends and family for referrals when it comes to choosing a physician. Even so, they still admit to checking out online reviews before making a final decision about setting an appointment.
“I typically read online reviews after I’ve made my decision because I prefer to get a referral from someone I know,” said Jamie C. ff Allentown. “That being said, I know for a fact that people are much more likely to complain than they are to write a good review. So, one review – either way – I am suspect about who wrote it.”
Still others look to reviews for specific information. A negative review, in this case, could really impact a patient’s decision to see one physician over another.
“It’s difficult to ascertain the legitimacy of a review. It’s very subjective and there are so many factors that come into choosing a doctor. Bedside manner is important to me,” said Janis P. of Hopewell. “So if there was a review that said he doesn’t spend a lot of time or is gruff, couldn’t be bothered, that would definitely impact my decision.”
Bogus Reviews are Bad for Consumers and Bad for Business. Period.
“Bad online ratings can wreak havoc on doctors’ businesses, in extreme cases driving physicians to leave a particular state to practice elsewhere,” according to research published in The Wall Street Journal. “Ratings sites will take down reviews that use profanity, but they typically won’t edit or remove a review simply because a doctor (or any business) disputes what is in it.”
Further, while an electrician or an eatery can just close and change the business name and reopen, physicians can’t do that. Once their reputation is damaged, it’s a done deal.
In fact, “one negative review can cost you almost 30 new patients, and nearly 80 percent of patients will change their mind about a practice after reading a bad review,” according to the Invespro study.
“Unfortunately, it’s hard to find reliable, easy-to-understand information about specific doctors or practices,” Doris Peter, Ph.D., director of the said. “Sure, you can check out physician reviews on sites such as Yelp and Angie’s List, but do you really want to find a doctor the same way you do a restaurant or plumber? Probably not.”
So – What is the solution?
Patients should seek in-depth information regarding the physician, their practice and their philosophy. One site dedicated to bringing deeper information to consumers is HumanizeMD (www.humanizemd.com). Compatibility with your physician enhances communication, and good information flow between doctor and patient leads to better outcomes.
Hyper local, and focused initially in Central New Jersey, HumanizeMD is the first informational website that helps you get to know more about a doctor as a person before making one of your most important healthcare decisions.
Urgent Care Centers – Saving You A Trip to the ER “Urgent care centers offer an emergency room alternative to patients with medical needs that are not life-threatening,” says Dr. Cal Garcia, DO, FACOEP, Chief Medical Officer for Immediate Care, which has nine locations in Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth and Ocean counties.
“Urgent care centers fill an important gap,” says Dr. Garcia. “Patients require immediate care on their own time, including nights, weekends and holidays, which often conflicts with the availability of the primary care physician. A trip to the ER is costly, time consuming, and commonly unnecessary.”
“An urgent care facility is also a convenient walk-in destination for vaccines and immunizations as well as school and sports physicals,” says Dr. Garcia. “Pre-employment physicals, DOT exams, and treatment for work-related injuries and illness are also available.”
“Urgent care centers are staffed with physicians trained in emergency medicine, and nurse practitioners and ancillary healthcare professionals skilled at handling all levels of non-life-threatening conditions on a walk-in basis,” says Urgent care centers, Cal Garcia, Immediate Care, Urgent Care Now, urgent care, walk in clinics, John Kulin, primary care physician, HumanizeMD, DO, FACEP, FCUCM, Founder and CEO of Urgent Care Now, with four locations in Southern Ocean County.
“Patients at an urgent care center benefit from diagnostic technologies commonly found in emergency departments at local hospitals, including radiology and laboratory services,” adds Dr. Kulin. “We also perform suturing, casting, IV therapy, and blood and urine analysis.”
“I ran an ER for 10 years before going into urgent care,” says Dr. Kulin, “and I always loved the variety of cases that came into the ER. The urgent care setting enables us to also treat patients with a wide spectrum of non-life-threatening conditions equally well, but in a timely, patient friendly, cost-effective fashion.”
Common Conditions Treated at an Urgent Care Center
• Animal and Insect Bites
• Back Pain
• Bladder Infections
• Minor Burns
• Cuts and Lacerations
• Minor Dislocations
• Minor Rashes & Skin Infection
• Respiratory Illness
• Sports Injuries
• Stomach Flu
• Wound Care
Walk-in clinic. Immediate care center. Retail clinic. Convenient care clinic. Urgent care center. Emergency room.
You’ve probably heard of most of these terms and even used them interchangeably, but do they mean the same thing? As it turns out, these terms are not equivalent. Most experts agree on the following:
“Walk-in clinic” is the most general term and this refers to – you guessed it – places where you can walk in without an appointment. The other terms represent types of walk-in clinics, with urgent care centers just one step below an emergency room, although more convenient and less costly.
Retail clinics, also known as convenient care clinics or immediate care centers, are walk-in clinics located in a retail environment, such as a pharmacy. Retail clinic services may include the treatment of minor injuries and illnesses such cold and flu symptoms, strep throat, and skin rashes. Many retail clinics also offer vaccinations, especially flu shots.
Urgent care centers, the most well-recognized term for the non-ER setting, provide far more comprehensive care for the conditions handled at retail clinics as well as for more severe,
non-life-threatening health issues, and they staff and equip accordingly. Urgent care is highly recommended to supplement times when your primary care physician is unavailable, particularly given urgent care centers’ extended office hours and seven-day operations.
Emergency rooms, typically located in a hospital, are the most expensive and least convenient walk-in option. ERs are essentially equipped to handle anything that walks through their doors. They also are required by law to accept all patients, regardless of their ability to pay. This fact, among others, often causes ER wait times to be several hours and the average cost is many times more than an urgent care facility.
A recent study found that nearly 50 percent of the diagnoses at emergency rooms could be treated by urgent care centers at a fraction of the cost and wait time. And with more than
9,000 urgent care centers in the US vs. 4,500 emergency rooms, urgent care centers are closer, more convenient options. Next time, consider an urgent care center when a nonlife-threatening emergency strikes.