Here at RealSelf, we spend a lot of time talking about doctor reviews but traditional reviews actually play a very small role in our user community. Truth is, when most users write about the aesthetic procedures they’ve had, they’re not passing judgment on their providers, they’re sharing stories about their experiences.
It’s a subtle but crucial distinction.
Consider the RealSelf “review” posted by Kimmers25, who had a tummy tuck and lipo back in April 2010. Posting her first post-op report 11 days after her procedure, she updated the information several times before posting the following seven months later:
I have had several people ask to see my final results after the 70 pound weight loss, 76 inches, breast reduction and tummy tuck so I am posting pictures. My journey is finally complete and I am so happy I did all of this.
For those of you who are in the process of your journey just keep going and know you will get there. It is a long hard road and you will have good days and bad days but they will all be worth it.
Which, presumably, would have been the end of it, except that she sparked a conversation that now includes nearly 1,000 comments from more than 100 other community members who have been sharing their thoughts, concerns and support ever since. The most recent comments are less than a month old.
That’s more than two years after the fact!
That kind of word of mouth provides far more value — both for consumers and doctors — than any ratings-based review can. And while Kimmers25 did, indeed, rate her doctor (5 stars across the board), it’s obvious that it was her experience that the community responded to, not the number of stars she assigned.
At RealSelf, we’re finding that quality reviews are actually stories, says CEO Tom Seery. And when telling their stories, people often adjust their star rating of the provider along the way, which is a better measure of long-term satisfaction. This explains why we call RealSelf a community, rather than a doctor rating site.
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter whether you call such postings reviews, patient stories or user experiences. The bottom line is that they’re more about the process than the person who performed a particular procedure. Doctors who recognize that — and use the knowledge to focus their efforts on more patient-centric marketing — will probably like how the story turns out.