Hand Surgeons Value a Positive Online Reputation but Lack Implementation

Background: A positive online reputation is increasingly important for hand surgeons to build patient trust and generate patient referrals.  Few studies have evaluated the value of a positive reputation, and those that have used only small cohorts of surgeons and limited review website data.  This study is the first to analyze the value of a positive online reputation for all hand surgeons and correlate the responses to Google search result review volume and star-scores. 


Methodology: A prospective, email-based survey was performed among all ASSH members inquiring about the “value of a positive online reputation” rated from “no value” to “very much” and converted to a 0–3-point score.  Simultaneously, a unique Google search was performed for each member with record of the presence of a Google business profile, the number of reviews, and the review score (measured from 1-5 stars).  Data were analyzed using Excel-style tools and reported as the average number of reviews and stars as they correlate with ASSH member responses regarding the value of a positive online reputation, as well as decade in practice and practice type. 


Results: A total of 1,899 active and 715 candidate members were included in the study (total: 2,614).  Of the 946 that responded to the survey (36% response rate), the mean value score was 2.00. In total, 33.8% and 40.4% stated that a positive online reputation was “very much” or “somewhat” valued, respectively, while 13.7% and 9.9% felt a positive online reputation had “minimal” or “no value,” respectively.  When Googled to determine online reputation status, 60.1% had online reviews, 14.3% had a profile without reviews, 24.3% had no identifiable profile, and 0.7% had profiles listed as “closed.”  The mean number of reviews was 18.2 (median: 4) and the mean review score was 4.48 stars (median: 4.8).  Higher scores correlated with higher numbers of reviews, younger age, and greater perceived value of online reputation.  Private-practice surgeons had a higher number of reviews (mean: 24.5 reviews, 4.45 stars) compared to employed, academic, and government practices (mean: 7.4 reviews, 4.48 stars).  Only 86 hand surgeons had greater than 100 reviews, but those that did had an average score of 4.82 and a value score of 2.53.


Conclusions: 74% of hand surgeons consider a positive online reputation “very much” or “somewhat” valuable.  The average hand surgeon Google profile has 18 reviews with a 4.48 star score.  Only 3% of hand surgeons have greater than 100 reviews.  Higher review volume correlates with higher scores, with an average high value of 4.82 stars.  Hand surgeons may increase patient trust and referrals by soliciting online reviews to increase volume, increase score, and improve their online reputation.