Choosing a reputable hospital or physician group can be a daunting task. Sometimes, in the case of emergencies, it’s all about convenience rather than instinct. However, if you can do research and choose where you’d like to go ahead of time, a plan of action can be in place from the start; this can eliminate stress and confusion when and if the time comes of needing to seek treatment. If you’ve ever used a search engine like Google to find what you’re looking for, then you know the importance of quality reviews. We all have our bottom line in terms of what we will settle for regarding quality, and those stars next to a professional businesses’ name will set the tone for how likely we are to utilize the service we are seeking.
For simplicity, let’s use the following example – say you live in an area with three major hospitals nearby, and you want to choose the right one for you and your family just in case a situation presents itself. So, you go online to Google or another reputable search engine, and you start typing in “hospitals near me.” The three hospitals you are familiar with all come up with various ratings, so you do some digging and make the decision that the hospital with the best online review ratings wins. You look at the various comments and decide that given the opportunity to choose, you would select this particular hospital for your care. Fast forward…a few months go by, and you need to have an elective procedure done at a hospital. Your physician just so happens to be a hospitalist at the hospital you want to go to. The decision is now easy for you as to where you’d like to go.
At this point, you are feeling confident. You have read several positive reviews regarding what a pleasant experience many people had at the specific hospital and are ready to move forward with your operation. Fast forward again…you had your procedure, your physician was great, but your experience with the hospital was less than impressive. In fact, you were downright displeased with everything from the cleanliness of the room to the pleasantness of the staff and the responsiveness of your health care team. You think to yourself, how can this be? I read review after review that stated this was the best hospital to come to, and all you experienced was the opposite. Was it the fact that you came on an off day? Or perhaps was it something more?
According to the Washington Post, medical care is a robust industry comprised of global review fraud. This is because there is so much competition among physicians, organizations and professional medical institutions, and fake reviews can help boost rankings and sway consumers’ decision making. While Google has various protection protocols in place, scammers can still find ways to create fake profiles, leading consumers to make decisions based on incorrect information.
Although your less than desirable experience at your local hospital may or may not have been related to phony online reviews, this is still something you should be watchful of whenever making decisions based on reviews you see from users.
When searching for health information or reviews online, you can help limit your chances of being a recipient of review fraud by taking the following into consideration:
- Look for reputable sources. These include government resources like the National Institutes of Health, CDC, and WHO, to name a few; universities and academic organizations; nationally recognized hospitals; and health organizations like the American Cancer Society, American Public Health Association, and more. These types of groups are going to have the most reliable information available with editorial boards, expert reviews, and other major checkpoints in place.
- Do your research. When looking at online reviews for health organizations, it’s important to look in more than one place for feedback. Check sources like Healthgrades, WebMD, Google My Business, Yelp, and social media to ensure consistency in reviews and user experiences.
- Beware of generic sounding names or profiles without photos. A lot of fake user reviews are generated from people who do not have a profile picture or have common names like John Doe. Often, you can click on the profile of the user providing the review. If you cannot find other reviews from the user, or limited information, the review may not be valid. If the “person” does have a profile, check to see if they have left poor reviews on multiple other business pages. If this is the case, they could very well have been hired to leave negative reviews.
- Look at the timeline. Generally, reviews are listed in chronological order and are spread out over time. If you notice a spike in reviews over a short period, there is a likelihood of potential deception.
- Look for duplication in reviews. If you are looking over numerous reviews and notice many of them have the same wording or phrasing, it may be that the same person or scammer is providing the same review repeatedly.
- Make sure you check for good grammar. It’s true you may come across legitimate reviews that have poor grammar, but fraudulent, outsourced reviews are more likely to contain poor spelling and syntax, especially if you are seeing this frequently in several reviews.
- Check the 3 and 4-star reviews first. Most likely your most honest feedback will come from people giving 3 or 4 stars on a review. You will see where improvements could have been made, as well as what was satisfactory. It helps give context especially when there are a multitude of 5-star reviews present, even if the superior reviews are all legitimate.
It can be tricky to navigate online reviews, especially for medical organizations. But, by being diligent and following the guidelines above, you can minimize your likelihood of getting caught in the middle of trusting fraudulent reviews. If you find yourself in doubt, or feel like you need more clarification, you may want to contact a few of the reviewers (both negative and positive) to see if they will provide a response. Most scammers will not respond, while real people are more apt to provide an answer with helpful feedback.
If you still feel unsure of what to believe, feel free to contact the health organization directly and ask to speak to their patient relations department. Before contacting the company, be sure to write a list of concerns and questions you have relating to the reviews you saw online. By speaking directly with a representative from the organization, you are likely to get legitimate answers.
Still uncertain or feeling overwhelmed? Let us help! Advanced Care Hospitalists can answer any questions you have about finding a reliable hospital or hospitalist. Contact us today for more information.
Contact Advanced Care Hospitalists to Learn More
ACH is a Lakeland-based hospitalist group providing comprehensive patient care in community hospitals across Central Florida. If you are interested in learning more about our programs, services, providers or becoming a partner facility, please call us at 863-816-5884 or fill out a contact form online.