How Reliable Are Online Reviews for Plastic Surgery?
The explosion of online information has brought greater transparency to medical and aesthetic care, allowing prospective patients to weigh the benefits of procedures and learn more about practitioners. As with other aspects of the cyber world, however, it has also created a platform for a variety of insincere critics, trolls, disgruntled employees, furtive competitors and reputation profiteers.
In this post, experienced Albany plastic surgeon Dr. Bruce Barach offers tips to consumers to help judge the credibility of reviews and discover the truth about healthcare options.
Popular Review Portals
Just as many consumers now consult “Dr. Google” when feeling ill, many also reflexively check out review sites when selecting a doctor or confirming the qualifications of a referral for aesthetic surgery. Google, Facebook and Yelp are the most popular general review sites. Healthcare-specific resources important for plastic surgery include Healthgrades, Vitals, RateMDs and RealSelf.
Under the Radar or Over the Target
Many doctors don’t pay attention to their Yelp or Google reviews, and others pay minimal attention to their practice’s Facebook site, which also features reviews. Often when a negative review does appear, it is authored by a critic on the fringe with a particular axe to grind or an unreasonable expectation.
Checking for patterns in reviews can help consumers discover the truth. For example, if a doctor receives a few negative reviews over 4 or 5 months, and then a burst of 5-star reviews over a few weeks, the burst of 5-star reviews could be fake reviews encouraged by the doctor to bury the negative reviews. Read through the reviews and assess the sentiment to determine if the reviews appear to be based on true interaction between doctor and patient.
On the other hand, a few successive 1-star reviews over a short time period, mixed in with generally positive reviews over a longer period, could signal a disgruntled employee or ex-spouse — or even a competitor purposely trying to damage the doctor’s reputation. Check to see how detailed these reviews are: Does the author appear to describe a real interaction with the doctor, something that is likely to have happened? Broad criticisms and ad hominem attacks are red flags.
Pay for Praise
Sometimes it’s not the consumer who is tilting the reviews, but the medical practice itself. Yelp aggressively pushes “visibility enhancing” services to businesses to promote only the positive, and some reputation companies employ armies of fake reviewers, often in far-away boiler rooms, who post thousands of online critiques each day.
Some sites minimize the likelihood that ratings have been skewed by verifying that a reviewer has been an actual patient. As has been seen more generally with Amazon reviews and Angie’s List, this policy is not airtight, but it does dramatically boost the credibility of online commentary.
Trusted Albany plastic surgeon Dr. Bruce Barach is grateful that so many of his patients have used review sites to express deep satisfaction with their results. Check out a sampling of these reviews by selecting the tab above, and contact us today to schedule your personal consultation.