Doctors and Patient Trust: Build It and They Will Come, Part I

Doctors and Patient Trust: Build It and They Will Come, Part I

150 150 Rob Lovitt

online reviews trust

“Trust me, I’m a doctor.” If you’ve ever seen the phrase on a t-shirt or bumper sticker, you know it’s often offered up with tongue planted firmly in cheek.

But for real doctors hoping to engage with real patients, the reality is no laughing matter. Trust is everything and doctors hoping to generate new business must foster it long before a patient walks in their door.

In fact, according to a new study by, 84% of respondents said that they would not engage with a brand or information source until trust has been established.

With the high volume of information at consumers’ fingertips, not only is trust a valuable filter, says Laura Salant, the company’s research director. It is a prerequisite for consumers to even enter the purchase funnel.

So what do consumers trust most? According to Nielsen, 92% trust recommendations from friends and family, 70% trust online reviews from other consumers and just 47% trust paid advertising in TV, magazines and newspapers. In these socially connected times, it’s no coincidence that the first two figures are increasing while the latter continues to slip.

And social, notes the study, engenders trust in very specific ways. When asked what aspects of social media boosted trust, here’s what respondents had to say:

  • 41% said “allowing me to see reviews from people in my social network”
  • 36% said “seeing photos where other people illustrate their own experience…”
  • 33% said “seeing a ‘like’ or recommendation from a friend”
  • 27% said “connecting me with people that may have been searching for similar information”
  • 25% said “seeing how many ‘likes’ a piece of content received”
  • 21% said “seeing that other people have ‘pinned’ a piece of content”

online reviews trust

Even more telling, perhaps, the study reported that reviews inspire roughly twice as much trust as “likes.” 50% of respondents said having a lot of reviews and not hiding negative increased trust while only 26% said having a lot of “likes” had the same effect.

At RealSelf, we’re not at all surprised by the findings. A “like,” after all, requires nothing more than a single click whereas a review entails a real person sharing their thoughts, emotions and experiences. Those ongoing conversations — between patients and potential patients, close friends and complete strangers — are a natural trust generator that doctors can tap into by sharing their own insights, experiences and expertise.

In other words, trust begets more trust. Consumers clearly trust reviews, which means that doctors who want to grow their practices should trust them, too.

Rob Lovitt

Rob Lovitt is a longtime writer and editor who believes every good business has a great story to tell. He has written for dozens of magazines and websites, including, and the inflight magazines of Alaska, Horizon and Frontier airlines.

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