The Secret Recipe for Positive Reviews

In this Thanksgiving season, our minds turn to family and friends and thoughts of warmth and comfort. Similarly, these are the sentiments of happy patients at the end of a successful surgical experience.

On the surface, you may think RealPatientRatings® is simply another doctor review website. In fact, we are conducting the largest real-time study of plastic surgery patient experience in history. As of today, 32,315 completed surveys provide incredible insights into patient expectations about their cosmetic surgery experiences.

Distilling 20,000+ reviews, we created word clouds to highlight positive and negative patterns in patient sentiment. (Word clouds give greater prominence as words appear more frequently in the source text.)

Which feelings do happy patients have in common?

Looking at the dominant words used in 5-star (highly-satisfied) reviews, the patients focus on their positive emotions, i.e., comfort, outcomes and next steps. They are happy and satisfied. They plan to stay in the practice and help it grow. Nearly all of them authorize posting of their positive reviews.

Look at the words and phrases that dominate:

  • Experience (staff, comfortable, professional, confident, friendly)
  • Results (outcome, pleased, better, best, amazing)
  • Recommend (friends)


*Word cloud generated with 75 most frequently used words distilled from over 14,000 5-star (highly-satisfied) reviews

Which sentiments do unhappy patients typically share?

If you’re a doctor whose average rating is 3.9 or lower on a 5.0 scale, too many of your patients are saying very different things about you. In negative reviews, patients most often express sentiment within the following themes:

  • Time (schedule, appointment, rushed, waiting, long, minutes)
  • Communication (call, asked, questions, wanted, needed)
  • Money (estimate, pay, price)

They are frustrated by service and communication failures and their negative reviews focus on these issues. If you want to change the tone and content of future reviews, then you need to attack these service problems at the source. Interestingly, most bad reviews are not complaints about the quality of results, but about the patient experience.


*Word cloud generated with 75 most frequently used words from over 6000 reviews with ratings of 1-4 stars (highly dissatisfied, dissatisfied, neutral, and satisfied.)

In a recent article in Forbes, How Doctors Should Respond to Negative Online Reviews, author Eric Goldman urges doctors to embrace reviews, as they’re mostly positive, and learn from the few negatives.

We agree! Most patients are happy, either satisfied or highly satisfied. Patients who rate their experience as neutral, dissatisfied, or highly dissatisfied represent only 4% of the survey totals for overall satisfaction.

Since it’s been determined in a number of studies that consumers require a small amount of negative feedback in order to confidently believe positive feedback, all the effort by doctors to quash negative reviews is really misguided.

time-for-changeWe encourage our members to embrace and use critical feedback internally to improve future patient experiences, which coincide with positive business outcomes they seek:

  • Improve conversion rates at consult
  • Increase likelihood to recommend after surgery
  • Increase potential positive reviews
  • Decrease the likelihood of negative reviews

Like any recipe, the right blend of ingredients results in a perfect dish. You can personalize it for your own practice, but the foundation doesn’t change. Be sure your service and care systems meet the needs of your patients. To the extent that they don’t, your reviews will be filled with patient frustrations about small, incidental issues that should be fixed internally rather than displayed for the world to see.

Once you address and correct any problems, your reviews will be filled with the joyful experiences of happy patients who are telling their friends and family why they should come to your practice.