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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.

(Check out: “Here are the Best and Worst Cities in America, According to Online Doctor Reviews”)

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.

Kevin Kent

Kevin is the Director of Finance and Operations at ReviewTrackers. Every day he finds creative ways to solve business owners' problems and identifies key issues to help them achieve top results.

Discussion

  1. Justin Paw

    This is very simple. You should choose the doctor with great expertise, who is acknowledged in medical circles. Anyone could write reviews, maybe an overprotective mom could write a bad review about the doctor who didn’t believe her when she thought that her child is suffering from deadly disease and told her it;s a simple case of cold. I trust to experts when it comes to assessment of the doctor’s expertise.

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  2. Jay Bird

    Too many hypochondriac patients these days complain on their doctors over a small things..STOP that!! If you do not like the diagnosis ask for a second opinion. Doctors are over-stressed by crazy people who aren’t sick or go to doctor for every sneeze,while the are people who really need’s help.

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  3. Hollaback Will

    Ok, I look doctors reviews, read good or bad comments, but it is not the main thing when I am ordering services like this. It is true that mom nowadays are very sensitive about their children and their’s sickness like licking nose. Panic, panic, hypochondriac…,,only I love my child and take a good care,,..oh…Good doctor have exact dose of reality, he observe correctly and professional, give you right diagnose, but he is not gently as you expected…o.. o.. he is not good. His goal is to give you right description of situation, give you right prescription, and go to the next patient…he don’t have enough time for listening crazy stories born in yours imagination. Good review shows you something but it is not only that is final, ask your friends.

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