According to a survey by the EHR technology recommendations business Software Advice, of over 4,500 patients in the U.S., 42% of patients reported use of online physician review, with the majority (62%) using online reviews in their initial search to find a new doctor. Almost half the respondents would travel out-of-network for a doctor that had more positive reviews.
Yelp and RateMDs.com are just two of the go-to sites most often used for customer feedback. A study by the Journal of General Internal Medicine analyzed the reviews of these two sites for family and internal medicine practices in four cities – and found 37 percent of the reviews were negative.
With this in mind, it’s important to actively manage your online reputation and take greater control of your practice’s presence. Here are six tips to aid marketing for doctors and help maximize the impact of your online physician reviews.
1. Ensure Up-To-Date Information on Review Sites
Google your practice or organization name to find the review sites you currently appear on. Be sure that they contain the correct information, including your website, contact information, and number of years you have been in practice. It’s also highly recommended to include a photo; customers respond more positively when there are images included. Highlight and showcase your credentials and certification as part of your profile.
2. Demonstrate a Customer-Centric Presence Through Your Website
It goes without saying that all your business’ information should be up-to-date and in line with any information on review sites. In addition, your own website is a great place to showcase customer testimonials and any other positive news items (local recognitions, community partnerships, service awards, etc.). Having an active presence on Facebook can also help strengthen existing patient relationships and demonstrate transparency and confidence to new customers.
3. Collect Customer Feedback
One of the easiest ways to boost your reputation is by encouraging customers to write a review based on their experience with you. Display a sign in your waiting area to let patients know you value their feedback and direct them to how they can leave it (in person, by email, by phone, or via an online form). With patient permission, you can use these on your own website. If you have email consent, send a follow up communication to request their feedback and highlight the rating sites you are on to further encourage them to leave feedback there. Specifically ask patients about the quality of care provided – according to the Software Advice survey, this information was most valued by patients.
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4. Monitor Online Comments
If you see a negative review online, don’t panic. Objectively evaluate what was posted and reach out to the patient who wrote the review, either directly if you can identify them or, if not, by posting a comment inviting them to contact you. This strategy demonstrates that you value feedback and care about the experience that customers have with your business. An example could be: “We apologize that your experience with us was not the high standard that we pride ourselves on. Please call our office so we may have the opportunity to rectify the situation.”
Being polite and responsive to negative reviews can often turn them into positive reviews. Be sure not to discuss publicly patient specifics – while a patient may post whatever they like about their visit with you, it is against HIPAA policy to say anything about them or share medical information.
Be careful not to be drawn into ongoing conversations on review sites – it’s much better to take the discussion offline. Review sites generally display newer content more prominently, so any new comments to an older negative review can appear at the top of the page.
If you see a comment which is particularly upsetting to you, wait before you respond – don’t react defensively. Instead, respond the following day. If the comment defames your practice through the use of false words or pictures and is serious enough to damage your business, contact the site to find out their procedures for having the review removed.
Finally, use customer feedback to improve your business. It can bring attention to a problem you may not have been aware of, such as waiting times (one of the most common complaints).
5. Don’t Ask Patients to “Not Review”
Asking patients to sign “will not review” agreements is a no-no. Most likely, the agreements wouldn’t hold up in court and you risk alienating your long-term patients.
6. Behave Politely, Honestly, and Transparently
Often, the biggest damage to a business can be done by the business themselves. Make sure you avoid this by focusing on the positive and share factual information in an authentic and honest manner. Despite critical reviews, which are inevitable, with proactive management, your positive reviews will grow and your ratings increase.