The Prescription for Better Online Reviews for Your Practice
February 12th, 2016 by
Just last month, Forbes ran an article titled “Why Doctors Must Market Themselves in 2016.” Much as customers at a restaurant can get on Yelp to write about their experience, patients can review their physicians on Yelp and other sites as well. RateMDs.com, Healthgrades.com, and Vitals.com are just a few examples of sites that host online reviews for physicians, dentists, and hospitals. ZocDoc.com even includes an app that allows you to search for nearby physicians in your insurance network. These websites had around 6.4 million hits last year, and in 2014, more than half of patients reported that they used physician-rating websites to select a doctor. Even if your practice hasn’t decided to take a look at your online reviews, many of your patients already have.
Part of the Broader Trend
According to a BrightLocal survey, 88 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as they trust a personal recommendation. Patients who scour the Internet for reviews on cars and restaurants will naturally use similar resources when looking for a dermatologist or other medical practice. Even when patients are referred by a friend or another physician, many will search for directions through Google, which will reveal reviews entered on Google+. In effect, online reviews are ubiquitous to the point of being unavoidable, and addressing online reviews has become an equally unavoidable part of healthcare marketing.
The Danger of Online Reviews
Not everything on the Internet is true, but negative reviews can have a very real effect on the reputation and success of your practice. As with any business, it’s unfortunately the least satisfied patients who seem most motivated to leave reviews, and they counterbalance the handful who would take time to write about a positive experience. In the same study where 61 percent of participants used online reviews to find doctors, only about one in five took the time to write reviews themselves. A major key of online reputation management is encouraging the satisfied majority of your patients to leave reviews. Learn how here.
Use the Feedback
The University of Utah Madsen Health Center decided to start sharing survey data with their physicians in 2008, and the hospital jumped in patient satisfaction from the 34th percentile up to the 80th over the course of six years. What’s more, safety, mortality, and efficiency scores improved while malpractice premiums and costs went down for the hospital. While some online criticism may be groundless, trends and insights can also be useful as feedback to improve your practice and the quality of service provided.
Plan Your Strategy
Because negative reviews have cumulative and long-term effects on your practice, a long-term outlook is needed to address the problem.
- Claim Your Listing – Your practice may already exist on Google+ and other review sites. Claiming the listing allows you to monitor reviews and respond to negative ones.
- Update Your Information – Entering your hours, contact information, and services makes your practice more accessible.
- Check Out Competitors – How do your ratings compare to other practices in your area? Do you have listings on the same review sites?
- Reply to New Negative Reviews – Do not delete negative feedback, but feel free to reply as appropriate.
How to Handle Negative Feedback
Reviewers who are upset sometimes make outrageous claims, but deleting the review only fuels a bigger reaction. When publicly responding to negative reviews, it is important to express sympathy for the person’s negative experience and move the conversation out of the public eye. People looking at the reviews should see that you have addressed the complaints, but they don’t need to read a long exchange that distracts from positive reviews.
Consider Calling in the Professionals
While claiming your practice on current listings does not take much time or expertise, managing the online presence across several sites can be a job that warrants a little professional help. The team at Search Influence can get results, especially when it comes to strategies that get your satisfied patients writing reviews. Ultimately, online reviews should just be one component of a comprehensive online marketing strategy. Increased visibility in the search rankings can help generate leads and reviews, which becomes a cycle for growth.