Online Patient Reviews: 3 Steps to Controlling Your Online Reputation

You can debate the positive or negative affect of patients reviewing doctors online.
However, there’s one fact you cannot argue; patient reviews

  • 35% percent of patients have selected a physician because of an online review and 37% percent of patients have avoided a physician because of a bad review (Source: The Journal of the American Medical Association, 2014).
  • Expect a 10% revenue loss as a result of negative reviews online (Harvard study).
  • Doctors are the fastest growing segment of online review visits (Patient Use of Online Reviews IndustryView by Software Advice).

So the question isn’t whether you love or hate online reviews, it’s what should you do about them? Patients are going to review you online whether you like it or not (even if the reviews aren’t always fair), but you can at least make an effort to better control your reputation online. The solution can be simplified into 3 steps: monitor, respond, and improve.

Step I: Monitor

The first step in better controlling the conversation online starts with knowing what’s being said about you. It would be near impossible to manually monitor all the review sites that exist today. Companies, like WhiteCoat Designs, simplify that process by offering an automated software that combs the online review sites for you. You can receive a monthly “report card” that scores your cumulative online reviews, as well as immediate email notifications each time a patient posts a new review online (whether negative or positive).

Step II: Respond

Once are you consistently monitoring what patients are saying about you online then you can devise a plan to respond. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as just deleting negative reviews. Every online review site has a different policy on this. Some will not let you remove negative reviews at all (unless they are slanderous or offensive, etc.) and some will only let you remove them if you pay to be an advertiser (a policy we see as borderline blackmail and do not support).

Some physicians only respond to negative reviews, but ideally you should also respond to positive reviews as well just to show patients you are listening and care about both forms of feedback. That being said, responding to negative reviews should take priority. Responding promptly to a negative review online is a great way to show off your practice’s exceptional customer service, and sometimes the fact alone that you responded is enough to make potential patients reading the review look past it.

In order to remain HIPAA compliant, never go into any detail when responding to a negative review online. Instead devise a canned response. Something like, “Dear patient, we are very disappointed to learn about your negative experience at your practice. This is certainly not indicative of the care we strive to provide patients on a daily basis. Please contact our Practice Manager at 111-111-1111 at your earliest convenience so we can learn more about your experience and use it as an opportunity to improve.”

Step III: Improve

Obviously in a perfect world patients would have such an exceptional experience at your practice that negative reviews wouldn’t be a concern. However, that’s unrealistic given the fact that sometimes no matter what you do, patients just aren’t satisfied. We’ve worked with some of the finest doctors in the country and even they experience negative reviews from time to time. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take each negative review as a learning experience and an opportunity to improve though. If you recognize a pattern of similar complaints, such as long wait times, then you should take those complaints seriously and work on reducing wait times.

The most effective way to improve your online reputation is to bury the negative reviews with positive ones. Some ideas of how to do this include a postcard you hand to patients at the end of their visit with a custom url on it to solicit online reviews, Facebook posts that ask patients to share their experience, a message via your patient portal, an email blast to your patients, or in-office ipads that allow patients to review you while they are still in the office.

Your online reputation is now just as important as your reputation among the local community. Consider implementing the three steps above to better control the conversation online and ensure you don’t lose potential new patients due to poor reviews.

Contact WhiteCoat Designs today if you are interested in learning more about our Online Reputation Management services.

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