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Insights for those starting, managing, and growing independent healthcare practices

What do 5-star doctor reviews mean?

5-star doctor reviews from happy and satisfied patients can help grow your credibility, patient volume, and revenue. Here’s how.

5 star doctor reviews

At a Glance

  • Five-star doctor reviews signify high patient satisfaction and credibility, enhancing a medical practice’s visibility and attracting new patients.
  • Positive patient experiences and satisfaction, reflected in online reviews, influence both reputation and practice growth.
  • While beneficial, these reviews have limitations, such as potential inaccuracy and lack of context, necessitating strategies to encourage authentic and detailed patient feedback.

Having a 5-star rating means a lot for a medical practice.

Testimonials with 5-star doctor reviews from happy and satisfied patients can help to grow your credibility, patient volume, and revenue. 

After all, patients use online reviews and positive consumer experiences when selecting healthcare providers, according to a survey by Tebra. Of these, 75% review doctors’ online profiles to learn about what they might be like, their approach, and their experience. 

Online directories and review sites offer patients a way to review and rate medical care providers. So, it makes perfect sense that practice owners would want to create experiences that generate more praise from patients, build their reputations, and grow their business.

But what do 5-star ratings mean for your practice? 

Here’s everything you need to know about 5-star doctor reviews, including their impact, their limitations, and how you can use them to support your success.

Patient Perspectives Report

What is a 5-star rating?

On review sites and online directories that use 5-star rating systems, a 5-star rating is the highest possible rating for a medical practice. 

Patients who’ve had a positive experience with a medical practice typically leave 4- or 5-star ratings and would recommend it to others, according to Curogram. This increases the practice’s likelihood of being considered a top independent practice on local listing and review sites. 

The higher a physician's ratings, the higher their measure of clinical quality and adherence to clinical guidelines, according to a study by researchers from Stanford University and the University of Washington. 

Positive, recent online reviews also boost a practice’s ranking in search engine results. That visibility can make it more likely that prospective patients will find your practice.

How do patients review and rate physicians?

Two main factors influence patients' positive ratings of physicians and medical practices: 

  • Patient satisfaction
  • Patient experience

While the terms are related, there is a distinction. Patient satisfaction measures whether a practice met a patient's expectations about a health encounter, and how happy they are with your services and capabilities. In other words, patient satisfaction is about a patient’s perception.

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Patient experience refers to what actually happens through every step of the patient journey. The focus is on whether a patient experienced key aspects of their medical care, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). In other words, patient experience can be empirically measured. Further, a study titled Exploring the impact of online information signals in leveraging the economic returns of physicians found that "doctors with positive signals about their service quality may receive more economic benefits than doctors with negative signals."

The importance of patient experience in healthcare is paramount, and an excellent patient experience generates more positive online reviews for your practice, which can have a direct economic impact on your practice. This is because of its improved health outcomes, better patient retention, more referrals, which ultimately support revenue growth.

When reviewing and rating a physician or practice, patients weigh several aspects based on their experience and satisfaction. These include:

  • Timely appointments
  • Easy access to information
  • Communication with their provider
  • Quality of the physical environment
  • Digital access tools
  • Friendly, responsive service
  • Health outcomes
  • Follow-up care

More than 80% of patients consider other factors, like a provider’s participation in insurance plans, costs, and practice location. 

“Patients look for the qualifications and available services of the practice, too,” says Drew Sutton, a board-certified ENT physician. “Does the practice handle a particular type of problem or do the doctors perform a surgery the patient is seeking?”

How 5-star doctor reviews impact medical practices

From Tebra’s survey, online reviews are one of the top factors when patients choose healthcare providers. For 93% of patients, reviews are at least somewhat important, depending on the date of posting, average star rating, and the total number of reviews.

Prospective patients read testimonies about patient experiences with a doctor and are more likely to trust those reviews over a provider's profile.

Online reviews are one of the top factors when patients choose healthcare providers. ”

For medical practices, 5-star reviews help physicians:

  • Gather patient satisfaction testimonies
  • Gain rich insights into how well they handle patients and meet their expectations
  • Identify gaps in their service offering and take remedial actions to ensure patients are satisfied in the future 

Even though the risk of receiving a negative review might feel like a burden, it's possible to use both positive and negative reviews to your advantage. They key is in how you respond.

You can also use reviews for information about your practice success. While there’s no guarantee any review is completely accurate, you can identify patterns in comments posted over time.

“Reviews do not report the success or complication rates of the physician or practice,” Sutton says. “It is important to consider the trend of the comments more than a particular positive or negative one.”

If feedback focuses on your staff, for example, leverage it to train your team on missed expectations, improve customer service, and recognize those who offer exceptional service. If feedback is about the patient experience more generally, consider a few ideas to improve the patient experience.

But just how accurate are 5-star doctor reviews?

Limitations of 5-star doctor reviews 

Five-star doctor reviews are like credibility badges that consumers attach to a medical practice’s services and capabilities. However, not all 5-star doctor reviews tell the whole story. 

Here’s a look at some issues with reviews and how you can resolve them to boost the quality and effectiveness of your patients’ 5-star ratings.

1. Vague reviews

Some patients post general statements about their experiences or doctors, including:

  • Physician’s friendliness
  • Wait times
  • Personalized and professional service
  • Office and healthcare staff
  • Location of the medical practice
  • Ease of parking

These factors are part of a patient's experience and satisfaction. But vague reviews make it difficult for other patients and for you to gauge the overall experience.

How to fix it: Encourage patients to add a brief explanation alongside their comment. For example, if a patient gives a 5-star rating for professionalism, they can follow it with a brief description of your services based on their personal experience. Doing this gives other patients researching you or your practice a feel of the quality of medical care to expect.

2. Patient preferences 

A patient might also give a terrible rating to a doctor who provides excellent care — just because the doctor declined to prescribe their preferred medication. Or a patient with an incurable disease might express frustration through a less-than-5-star review, despite the doctor giving the best care possible under the circumstances.

Patients tend to lash out about their frustration with their doctors even though they may have received exemplary care under difficult circumstances. ”
Drew Sutton

“Academic doctors may receive lower ratings from patients because they may take care of sicker patients,” says Sutton. “Patients tend to lash out about their frustration with their doctors even though they may have received exemplary care under difficult circumstances.”

A satisfied patient isn’t necessarily the best cared for or healthiest. A patient with a minor bacterial infection, for instance, might be satisfied that a physician did several tests and prescribed antibiotics, even though such measures didn’t contribute to their quick recovery. 

How to fix it: Listen to patients at the start of every visit to find out their reason for visiting and their ideas, concerns, and expectations. This ensures they leave satisfied, having voiced their desires. Communicate positively and clearly in response. This increases the likelihood of following your advice, improves patient satisfaction, and ultimately boosts your chances of scoring more 5-star reviews.

3. Fake reviews

Fake positive reviews are on the increase, particularly those purchased through groups that buy, sell, and trade fake online reviews.

And fake negative reviews are also a factor. If your practice receives many testimonials and postings, not all of them are necessarily from patients. Some of them could come from bot attacks, spamming, or social media manipulation. 

Sometimes a practice owner might not even be aware of any fake online reviews. But it’s important to exercise due diligence to ensure any postings or online information about your practice is correct and accurate, as whatever is out there can impact your reputation. 

How to fix it: Use robust reputation management to get more authentic and better patient reviews, regularly monitor your reviews, and get notified of new ones. Claim review profiles and accounts linked to your medical practice, monitor the web for mentions of your practice, and keep bots off your listings. 

4. Poor participation rates

Online ratings are often based on a low number of reviews. For example, a doctor may treat hundreds of patients and still have less than a handful of ratings. 

Such poor participation rates reduce the likelihood the rating accurately reflects the collective views of the doctor’s patients and might exaggerate the influence of a single happy or disgruntled reviewer. 

How to fix it: Add a dedicated space on your appointment booking and scheduling page where patients can post reviews. Or create a "leave a review" button to make it easier for them to submit ratings after every visit.

5. Inability to control or verify reviewers

There’s no guarantee the person submitting the review was even seen by the doctor. You can’t control a physician’s family member or friend, for instance, from giving a great or terrible rating.

But you can control and monitor reviews internally. Sentara Medical Group, for example, sends out patient satisfaction surveys only to patients that have an outpatient visit with a Sentara Medical Group provider. This way, the survey results would be based entirely from patients who have actually been treated by the provider.

"I found that the University of Utah and the Sentara Medical Group report internally collected data," says Sutton. "Apparently, several hospital systems do this, too. The idea is to prevent gaming and bias by verifying patient reviews. It may be a way to drown out random reviews."

How to fix it: Proactively monitor online reviews and ratings to identify areas of improvement in patient care and your practice, respond to or resolve issues faster, see how you and your practice compare to others in your area, and attract new patients.

Tips to boost your practice’s online ratings

Patients consider everything from your star rating to the number of reviews you have. With consistent and more positive 5-star doctor reviews, you can show prospective patients just how satisfied your current patients are with your practice’s care. 

Here are some strategies to acquire, manage, and improve your ratings:

  • Solicit feedback from patients when they visit and encourage satisfied patients to leave online reviews about their experiences. When your satisfied patients share with others who might benefit from your services, you can expand your reach and grow your client base.
  • Assemble a team of staff members to verify if the patients who leave reviews are real, and frequently check, reply to, and manage online reviews. 
  • Respond to negative reviews professionally and within HIPAA regulations: Tebra’s survey found that 64% of patients would go back to a practice if it addressed a negative review. Of these, 42% were about the quality of care delivered. Reach out to patients about a negative review and address their concerns, even if you think it’s too late. Most patients are willing to accept apologies and reasonable explanations from their provider before walking away.
  • Develop a framework for reading and replying to reviews with consistent and kind responses that build a healthy reputation and show the quality of patient care you offer.
  • Review what patients are saying about your practice and use their insights to improve your service delivery and increase satisfaction.

You don’t need to spend lots of money or resources to get your most loyal and satisfied patients to leave a review about your practice. 

Little efforts like linking your online listing or review sites to your website, helping patients navigate the review process, or sending automated post-visit text messages and emails can go a long way towards improving your ratings.

Scaling 5-star doctor reviews

Five-star doctor reviews are a strong testimony of the level of confidence patients have in the medical care offered at your practice. Besides boosting your SEO and SERP rankings, 5-star ratings make it easier to market your practice and attract new patients, leading to potentially higher new patient volumes.

Consider online ratings to be a resource and use them to improve your practice and enhance patient loyalty. 

Assure patients of your commitment to strive continuously to offer the best quality care they've come to expect. And keep staff aligned with patients’ expectations — now and in the future — to boost your chances of scaling the stars.

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Elsier Otachi

Elsier Otachi is a business writer. She has close to a decade’s experience writing on small business, technology, and marketing. She holds a bachelor’s degree in marketing from the Africa Nazarene University where she graduated Magna Cum Laude, plus certifications in content marketing, SEO, and social media marketing.

Reviewed by

Drew Sutton

Dr. Drew Sutton is a board-certified ENT physician. He has vast experience in treating all aspects of ENT, with particular interests in disorders of the ear and nasal and sinus disease. During his career, he started and managed an independent, single-specialty medical practice in a large metropolitan area.

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