Ratings + Healthcare + Marketing

Tuesday April 16th is the eve of the 2019 Healthcare Marketing & IT Conference (HITMC19). Since the event is being held in Boston, we thought it would be fun to try and bring several communities together for a meetup/tweetup that coincides with the weekly #hcldr chat.

If you are in Boston, here are the details of the meetup:

  • When: Tuesday April 16th at 8:00pm
  • Where: Boston Renaissance Waterfront Hotel, 606 Congress St – hotel bar
  • Who: #hcldr #pinksocks #S4PM #HITsm #HITMC

Everyone is welcome to join. At 8:30pm some of us will be on our phones and laptops to participate in the #hcldr chat LIVE! It’s going to be fun.

Healthcare marketing is challenging. There are a lot of rules and nuances that Marketers face whether they work at healthcare organizations and are marketing to patients/potential patients (B2C) or work at a company that wants to do business with healthcare organizations (B2B). In both cases, the challenge is how to best establish trust with the audience so that they are motivated enough to take the desired action.

That desired action could be something simple like: watch a video, book an appointment or download a piece of educational materials. Or it could be something that requires a great deal of commitment like: making a multi-million dollar technology purchasing decision or changing the organization where you get care. And how do you start? By fist establishing trust with your audience.

If you think about it, marketing is really all about building relationships founded on trust. If I trust you, I’ll listen to you. If what you have to say, matches what I need/want, then I will take the action you are guiding me to. Savvy Marketers know that there is no shortcut to establishing trust. There is no amount of Google Adwords or billboard advertising you can buy that will earn you trust. But that doesn’t stop people from trying.

We’ve covered the issue of trust-in-healthcare on a recent HCLDR chat – hosted by Joe Babaian – so we’re not going to dive into that topic again. Instead, what I’d like to explore this week on HCLDR is whether we trust healthcare rating sites – a new battleground/opportunity for healthcare marketers.

Over the past couple of years, rating sites in healthcare have grown in popularity and in importance.  There are sites that rate physician practices based on individual reviews like: Healthgrades, Vitals.com, RateMDs.com, and of course, Google. There are also sites that include ratings of Health IT companies and the solutions they offer: G2crowd and Capterra.

All these sites work on the same principle. They capture and publicly display user reviews of organizations/companies. Based on those reviews, a rating based on 5-stars is generated. The more reviews that are garnered, the stronger and more reliable the rating is. That’s the theory.

What’s ingenious about the G2crowd and Capterra business model (I’m not familiar enough with the others) is that they only “officially rank” companies that have more than a certain number of reviews. In some niche categories all you need is 10 reviews. In other, more popular product categories you need more. To help ensure the validity of reviews, only reviews where the person can be verified (mostly via tying the review to a LinkedIn profile) count towards the total.

Because G2Crowd and Capterra rank highly on Google searches, companies want to be as prominent as possible on both of those sites. To do that, many are actively encouraging customers to write reviews. Some, have gone as far as to offer giveaways and discounts on future purchases to anyone who leaves a review.

Here is where it gets interesting. Does a review cease to be unbiased when there is some form of reward for the person leaving the review? Would it matter if the reward wasn’t guaranteed (ie: an entry into a draw vs a gift card)? And on the flip side, knowing this was happening, would you trust the reviews enough to base a decision on?

As an aside, I have absolutely no issue with physician practices, hospitals or Health IT companies asking their patients and customers for reviews. I think that’s just a wise business tactic. I even applaud making it easy for them but having printed cards with QR codes to easily get to these review site. Where it gets grey for me, is offering a reward based on who leaves a review.

I also have absolutely no issues with any of the ratings sites. They are providing a needed service and are not responsible for the actions of the people on their site. They do their best to manage the reviews that come in, but they can’t police each individual organization to see if those reviews are tied to some sort of kick-back, or contest.

For Marketers, these sites represent a way to quickly establish trust with an audience. The more positive reviews that are visible, the more likely your organization/company will be chosen. Because of this, there is more and more focus (as well as pressure) being put on garnering reviews and then highlighting the high ranking in marketing campaigns.

But is this just a house of cards? Or is this truly a great way to determine who can be trusted?

Join the #HCLDR community on Tuesday April 16th at 8:30pm ET (for your local time click here) as we talk about ratings + healthcare + marketing just ahead of the #HITMC19 conference:

  • T1 Have you consulted a rating site when looking for care or for any purchase? How did it influence your decision?
  • T2 Is there a right way to leave a negative review? Do you owe the organization/company any form of constructive feedback?
  • T3 What are your feelings about healthcare organizations & companies offering incentives to write a review?
  • T4 What can/should marketers do about ratings and review sites. Leverage them? Ignore them? Encourage people to consider multiple sources?


Lee, Vivian S. “Why Doctors Shouldn’t Be Afraid of Online Reviews”, Harvard Business Review, 29 March 2016, https://hbr.org/2016/03/why-doctors-shouldnt-be-afraid-of-online-reviews, accessed 14 April 2019

McGrath, Robert J et al. “The Validity of Online Patient Ratings of Physicians: Analysis of Physician Peer Reviews and Patient Ratings.” Interactive journal of medical research, 9 Apr. 2018, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5913572/, accessed 14 April 2019

Petrow, Steven. “Why online reviews are not the best way to choose a doctor”, The Washington Post, 2 December 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/why-online-reviews-are-not-the-best-way-to-choose-a-doctor/2017/12/01/f2be27b8-c4a7-11e7-afe9-4f60b5a6c4a0_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.5e3eb100f7d0, accessed 14 April 2019

Taylor, Paul. “What you need to know about a widely used website to rate doctors”, Your Health Matters, 29 May 2018, http://health.sunnybrook.ca/navigator/rating-review-website-doctors-health-care/, accessed 14 April 2019

Abdulla, Ally. “Rate MD’s sucks the blood from a doctor’s soul”, The College of Family Physicians of Canada, 2015, https://www.cfpc.ca/ProjectAssets/Templates/Resource.aspx?id=8735, accessed 14 April 2019

Crowe, Kelly. “Who’s rating doctors on RateMDs? The invisible hand of reputation management”, CBC, 27 October 2018, https://www.cbc.ca/news/health/ratemds-privacy-reputation-management-1.4880831, accessed 14 April 2019

DesMarais, Christina. “The Art and Science of Sniffing Out Fake Reviews”, Inc, 20 May 2014, https://www.inc.com/christina-desmarais/how-this-website-uses-data-to-eradicate-fake-reviews.html, accessed 14 April 2019

Thomas, Andrew. “The Secret Ratio That Proves Why Customer Reviews Are So Important”, Inc, 26 February 2018, https://www.inc.com/andrew-thomas/the-hidden-ratio-that-could-make-or-break-your-company.html, accessed 14 April 2019

Bernazzani, Sophia. “11 Strategies to Promote Positive Customer Reviews for Your Brand or Business”, HubSpot, 20 December 2018, https://blog.hubspot.com/service/get-customer-reviews, accessed 14 April 2019

Image Credit

Texas is an Obsession – Brian Talbot https://flic.kr/p/s12qU

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