Fact: The internet is home to masses of useless reviews. There’s so many of them that it’s really difficult to determine which ones are useful and whether or not the information they contain is honest.
Unfortunately, paid, sponsored, or fake reviews are absolutely everywhere, and even the almighty Amazon has problems generating trustworthy reviews (Check out this hot tip about how to see only verified reviews on Amazon). Bogus reviews are all around us, threatening to overload us with irrelevant knowledge by making use of only fragments of truth or – even worse – outright lies.
We at MEDIGO deal with people’s health, so we can’t afford to allow partial truths, falsehoods, or useless knowledge to inform how we operate. We recognize that genuine patient reviews are an extremely valuable source of information for medical tourists, benefitting all actors involved:
- Patients benefit by getting the chance to give their opinion on the process, from their initial inquiry to post-treatment follow-up care;
- Hospitals gain by learning more about how patients experience them and where improvements can be made;
- Facilitators get to see what are the most common barriers between hospitals and patients; and
- Future patients can get an insight into the overall patient experience at a hospital, breaking down their fear of the unknown.
Number of MEDIGO patient reviews in 2016
To date in 2016, we’ve received 221 patient reviews, from a small fraction of patients who booked treatments through MEDIGO this year. Getting patients to review their medical procedures is not easy. More often than not, people who have received treatment just want to heal and move on from the experience. This holds particularly true if a patient receives a complex treatment (like a hip replacement or cancer treatment), a major event in anyone’s life.
Each patient gets up to four email review requests. Even though this is probably annoying to the individual patient, we believe that the more real patient reviews others can read, the better.
Here’s what you need to know about how we deal with patient reviews:
Only verified patients can review a hospital or clinic
We allow only patients who have received treatment at a clinic or hospital to leave a review. Each and every patient who books their treatment through us gets an opportunity (or four!) to evaluate their experience. Patients rate each of the following six factors out of five:
Overall experience: “How would you evaluate your overall experience?”
Communication: “How responsive and accessible were the clinic staff before, during, and after your treatment?”
Friendliness: “What was your impression of the clinic staff and other involved personnel?”
Value: “How would you rate the value for money that this experience has provided?”
Facilities: “Did the clinic provide everything they promised in their description?”
Location: Your impression of the accessibility of the clinic.
In addition, patients are asked to write a title and some text that describes their clinic experience. We ask, “Please describe your experience at the clinic, mentioning any useful information that may be of interest for future patients”. This is usually where patients seem to hit a wall – Leaving a rating out of five is one thing, writing a whole review about a life-changing experience is another. But we’re working to improve this as we know from experience how useful reviews that describe the experience are for people thinking of traveling abroad to receive medical care.
We believe that most online “patient reviews” are unreliable. A quick look at Google-generated reviews for any major hospital reveal why they aren’t trustworthy: Marketing teams can easily add overly positive reviews, any person with a Gmail address can leave a review, and many of these reviews don’t even rate treatments at the hospital. It’s not uncommon to see statements like (5-star rating) “the hospital museum was interesting for the whole family!” or (1-star rating) “I got fed up waiting and left – Wasted my time!”
Unfortunately, many medical tourism websites have a similar approach, where any person can write a review on a treatment they claim to have received at a clinic, but the only proof of treatment (if there is any at all) is a checkbox that states something like, “I declare this is an authentic review.” That’s just not good enough – and it opens the door for people affiliated with the clinic to write a 5-star review, or for the clinic to offer a special rate to a patient who leaves a glowing review. It’s also very rare to see any negative review on these sites – this should set your alarm bells ringing. Patients who have a negative experience are more likely to go to the effort of leaving a review than those who had a positive or an experience that met their expectations.
We publish every review we receive (positive and negative)
We make public every review we receive, and there is no bias in the reviews we publish. Patients receive no incentive to review their treatment on MEDIGO other than to reflect on the experience, to provide feedback to the clinic or hospital, and to inform other medical tourists about their treatment. The only “exception” to publishing poor reviews occurs when we remove a clinic from MEDIGO.com. In these cases (see the next section for more), all clinic content is then removed from MEDIGO – including its reviews.
Each negative review we receive from a patient launches an extensive clinic quality audit. We contact the patient and the clinic to get both sides of the story. Our Chief Medical Officer meets with our responsible Care Team member and Hospital Coordinator to review the case and discuss next steps. Possible outcomes range from no action (for unfounded complaints) all the way to a refund of treatment costs or a removal of the hospital from the MEDIGO network. As a curated and patient-centric marketplace, our mission is to build a close relationships with medical providers who share our patient-focused approach to healthcare. We’re doing pretty well: the average score given in MEDIGO patient reviews is 4.5 out of 5.
Average scores given in MEDIGO reviews
- Overall Experience 89%
- Facilities 89%
- Communication 88%
- Location 89%
- Value 86%
- Friendliness 93%
There’s a simple reason for publishing every review we receive: We have nothing to gain from publishing only 5-star reviews if they do not reflect the real patient experience. It wouldn’t take long for people to know our reviews cannot be relied upon, and our company would suffer as a result.
We de-list clinics and hospitals
Our listing criteria are strict: we invite only about 5% of clinics that apply to join our network. Once a clinic starts getting its first patients, we continue to closely monitor their progress. There is a simple reason why most of our reviews are positive: we only work with the best clinics. When a clinic or hospital gets a number of negative reviews, we de-list it. We also remove clinics we deem to be unethical or deliberately misleading in their approach to treatment, including post-treatment care and follow-up.
To date, we have de-listed more than 40 clinics or hospitals from MEDIGO, and patient reviews help us to determine whether or not we want to do so. They’re one of four main areas of quality we look at for hospitals on our platform:
- Medical quality (e.g. treatment success rates, operating licenses, and accreditations)
- Performance quality (e.g. patient interaction and responsiveness, and press coverage)
- MEDIGO patient reviews
- Ability to meet international patients’ needs (e.g. range of services)
Clinics that meet our criteria
MEDIGO isn’t interested in working with clinics that take little interest in the ongoing health of patients. In today’s global marketplace where everyone is connected, these hospitals are not in a position to provide all-round high-quality medical treatment and patient services.
Why our review process matters
More and more medical tourism facilitators are entering the market, but not all of them have sound practices in place to generate patient reviews. In effect, these operators are making medical tourism less trustworthy in doing so, adding to the oceans of unreliable online reviews.
MEDIGO’s reviews are genuine, not incentivised, and an essential part of our operations. We know that the patient experience is central to the ongoing development of medical tourism, and prospective patients need to be able to read trustworthy reviews that reflect this experience. Patients also need to know that their opinion matters, and that the hospital/clinic, the facilitator, and future medical tourists appreciate the time taken to generate a review.
Medical Tourism Forum on Facebook
As part of promoting the patient experience, we’ve created a Facebook group where real patients can discuss their experiences, ask questions, and give advice. It’s the best forum where real patients can talk with each other about their medical tourism experiences without being flooded by facilitators offering their service (we moderate the group to keep it that way!).