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Several factors play a role in how positively patients view their physicians. In our survey, the top complaint among patients was long wait times. Nearly three-quarters report that idle time in the waiting room is a problem—and based on the numbers, even waiting as little as 6 to 10 minutes may prompt poor ratings. Around 2 in 5 patients surveyed also have complaints about billing, and a similar number pinpointed communication as a problem. Just over 30 percent complained about a physician’s bedside manner, and around 20 percent were unhappy with other staff members in the office.
On the whole, physicians underestimated the complaints from their patients that could affect ratings. Around 2 in 5 physicians surveyed cited long wait times as a likely complaint, and nearly one-quarter believed their communication could be a culprit. Around 10 percent had concerns about bedside manner complaints, while even fewer felt practice staff, treatment plans, and billing could be problematic.
For physicians, receiving bad ratings unfairly is a concern. However, the issue of patient ratings goes much deeper. As many experts have pointed out, these types of ratings only scratch the surface when it comes to providing information about a physician. A patient searching for a care provider may read positive or negative information in a review. However, there’s no telling who gave those stars or wrote the review—and it could be a friend, a family member, or an angry former patient.
Even legitimate ratings fail to report on many aspects of a care provider. It may be helpful to learn that the office staff is friendly or that wait times tend to be long, but it’s certainly not as relevant as factors such as a physician’s skill level, experience, and success rates. Additionally, for any given practice, the number of reviews is likely too minimal to serve as a reliable source of information. Finally, even factors such as search engine influence can affect the results a patient finds while searching online for a physician.
For patients, there are several ways to yield more trustworthy results, including checking state medical boards websites, asking for recommendations from trusted contacts, and seeking physicians who treat a large number of patients for the specific health issue they’re experiencing.
For physicians, focusing on providing quality care is the key. Many medical professionals have found success by pursuing additional training on communication and compassion, which not only can improve patient satisfaction, but can also improve their interactions with patients and their family members. Relying heavily on customer service efforts, such as scripted apologies, only diverts attention from the more important issues at hand.
As for ratings, many experts recommend focusing on acquiring positive ratings rather than combating negative ones. For a physician with scant ratings, one negative review can skew the results. But as you collect positive reviews, the odd negative one won’t hold as much importance.