Reputation management has become a pillar of marketing for medical doctors. Traditionally, new patients would be assigned to doctors by networks, insurers, or referrals. Nowadays, though, the majority of potential patients takes charge of the selection process and relies on online doctor reviews in lieu of traditional referral channels, including word-of mouth.
More potential patients are aware of websites dedicated to capturing reviews of medical doctors and medical practices. These websites are making a growing impact on doctor selection, according to a new survey released by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
Nearly 20 percent of patients say that physicians’ ratings on websites are very important, and 40 percent say the review sites are somewhat important when looking for a primary-care physician. Of those who used the Internet to search for physicians, 35 percent say they picked a doctor based on good ratings, while 27 percent reported avoiding those with bad ratings.
This evolution in patient-acquisition format has been a great game-changer, and it will only continue to grow. This development has medical practices and their marketers on constant lookout for best practices and improved tools to better manage their online business reputation.
On the Whole, Reviews Are Beneficial to Your Practice – Don’t Dismiss Them
Generally speaking, doctors take negative reviews very personally, as do the majority of small business owners. After all, their good name is on the line. If you are facing a negative review regarding your medical practice, it is essential that you don’t dismiss it or become discouraged by it.
It is the addition of positive and negative reviews and the way you handle each situation via response that will tell the story to potential new patients. Consider every review an opportunity to engage with a wider audience, and make it a point to respond with professionalism, empathy, and sensitivity to the patient’s privacy. By engaging with all your reviewers regularly, you fuel a cycle that will generate new patients and, consequently, new and potentially more positive reviews. Don’t let pride or anger stand in the way. (Check out: “Approximately 64 Percent of Patients Think Physician Ratings are Important – But Not All Are Quick to Trust Online Review Sites”)
You Can’t Give Patient-Specific Details but You Can Speak to Standard Protocols
Virtual bedside manners matter, and so does your adherence to laws protecting the patient’s privacy. While many medical review sites don’t allow for free-text entries, precisely to protect the patient’s privacy, some do. Regardless of the rating of each specific review, you and your staff need to always adhere to the same privacy standards you would if you were engaging with the patient face to face.
You cannot discuss the specifics of treatment or advice on your responses, but you can, should you choose to, disclose your standard protocols for specific situations. When using this approach, make sure your language is precise and clear and never infers the possibility that you are disclosing patient specifics.
Most Patient Reviews Are Positive
While we tend to focus a great deal of our attention and energy on dealing with negative reviews, the reality is that nearly all reviews are positive and good for your business.
In many cases, patients go as far as replying to negative reviews in order to defend the reputation of their medical doctor, and they highlight the positive aspects of their practice. Yes, negative reviews must be dealt with, but let’s not forget that overall online reviews benefit most medical practices by providing significant exposure and credibility that would not be available otherwise. In many cases, this exposure comes at no cost to the practice, which liberates the marketing budget to be used in other forms of outreach.
Make Time to Respond to Your Reviews
Lack of accessibility and availability are some of the most common grievances against medical doctors. By making it a priority to respond to all online reviews in a way that reflects a high level of personal care, a medical doctor can build rapport with current patients. This will increase his appeal and credibility with potential patients making use of medical review sites like WebMD, Healthgrades, and Yelp.
Silence, selective interaction with only some reviewers, or template-based responses that appear to have been copied pasted perpetuate the misconception that medical practitioners are indifferent and take a high-and-mighty approach to patient opinion online.
Don’t Focus on a Single Review, Look at the Whole Picture
You should not fret over a single bad review. Yes, you should respond to it, and definitively you should learn from it, but do not dwell on it. Your potential patients are looking at the whole picture and not just at a single negative instance. Bad reviews will happen. Handle them to the best of your ability and move on.
Learn from Your Reviews
Patient reviews provide medical practices with invaluable insights that can help optimize patient care and tweak patient experience to deliver the best possible customer service. The patient’s opinion may not be accurate but it is true to them, and it reflects the way others are likely to perceive the medical practice. Use the findings to make changes that matter to those you serve.