According to a University of Michigan study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, approximately 25 percent of U.S. adults have consulted online review websites and physician rating sites. Of those, one-third eventually made decisions for or against a medical doctor based on the information they had found.
Other studies highlight the growing impact of online reviews on healthcare:
- According to Vitals, approximately 85 percent of consumers are now at least “moderately likely” to choose a doctor over another based on high ratings and positive reviews.
- Vitals also found that 51 percent of people check reviews to assess their physicians and healthcare providers. 47 percent of those who look up physicians online feel differently about the physician after viewing their profiles and reviews.
- Salesforce found that reviews, ratings, and feedback (76 percent) written by other patients on sites like Yelp and Healthgrades are considered by Millennials as the main criteria when selecting a doctor.
There are about 50 websites of varying sizes that collect patient reviews, and trends point toward continued growth and engagement in the use of these sites. And with the rising influence of online reviews and patient feedback in the decision-making process of patients looking for healthcare products, services, and providers, those with a strong online reputation strategy stand to gain a unique advantage over their competitors.
In my role with ReviewTrackers, I have had the amazing opportunity to chat with several physicians and medical professionals and get their insights on how they are managing online reviews and patient feedback. Below, you’ll find a roundup of the most effective approaches and best practices.
Be present and active in all relevant review sites
It’s not enough simply to have a Yelp profile, a Facebook Page, or a Google business listing. Those are obviously extremely important, but you have to establish and actively build your presence, too, on industry-specific websites and platforms where patients seek information about you.
In healthcare, these sites include Vitals, Healthgrades, and RateMDs, all of which serve as channels for patients to share their feedback and experiences. If you’re just getting started, this list should help you cover your bases.
It’s also useful to identify other sites specific to your practice which rank on search engine results pages. If you’ve never done it before, Google yourself. Type a search query in the same way patients are likely to search for you (or your competitors). Be sure to search with a local intent, too: say, “best pediatrician + town” or “Los Angeles family practice with best reviews”. The results should give you a better idea of the sites and platforms that are most relevant to your market.
Highlight common procedures, specialties, and conditions
Building your online reputation requires the ability to provide the kind of information patients are looking for.
This means that, on your website and in all those listings you’ve claimed and created on online review sites and local business directories, you should include not only your degree, licensure details, and certifications, but also your most common medical procedures, the conditions you treat, and your medical specialties.
Feel free to include other types of info that patients are likely to be interested in, like the use of new technologies, the application of certain pharmaceutical products, or access to new medical equipment and facilities.
Go beyond credentials to create detail-rich, solution-oriented profiles that anticipate patients’ needs and expectations. The more complete the information you provide, the less likely they are to look elsewhere.
Be specific about coverage
In healthcare, coverage matters. You can be the most accomplished doctor in the world, but if your office doesn’t clearly communicate coverage options and payment plans to patients, you’ll remain vulnerable to one-star reviews and negative patient feedback, which could potentially blemish your professional reputation.
When patients walk in, make sure they are provided with as much information as possible regarding insurance coverage and potential payment plans. Train your staff to integrate this into the patient experience. And make it a point to update your online properties with pertinent insurance information.
Implement appropriate technologies
It’s no secret that digital methods are changing the health experience.
One aspect of the patient experience that has become increasingly tech-driven is appointment scheduling. In fact, a study by Harris Poll found that, for Millennials, the ability to book appointments and pay bills online ranked as the second most important criteria for choosing a doctor or healthcare provider.
Patients today also express a growing interest in using mobile apps for managing their health, reviewing their personal records, and connecting with their doctors.
There’s no excuse for a phone service or paper trails that leave patients frustrated with long waits and uncertainty about your availability. To deliver a positive patient experience and generate great reviews and feedback, you must be able to meet your patients’ technological needs.
Implementing a tool like ZocDoc, for example, helps you engage with patients via a mobile app and instant appointment booking platform. You may also explore opportunities with manufacturers of electronics, with a view of empowering your patients to proactively manage their health data using wearable devices. Options vary, but the key is this: to stay competitive in an increasingly wired and data-intensive health economy, you have to make technology a key investment priority for your organization.
Embrace feedback and encourage patients to review you
In the age of Vitals and Yelp, you can’t be afraid of what patients might say. Embrace their feedback, show that you’re listening, and respond whenever you can. On sites that allow you to be open about requesting your patients’ honest opinions, be active in encouraging people to review you.
The quality and quantity of your reviews are obviously crucial in ensuring your visibility in search, and they are also a major factor in your lead generation efforts, as well as in determining whether or not patients choose you. And with many providers having implemented follow-up quality-control calls, it just makes sense to take advantage of the contact opportunity to encourage a patient to leave a review, when applicable.
Analyze patient feedback to foster service improvements
The opinions and feedback of your patients are a valuable source of information essential to making service and operational improvements. The most successful doctors and providers take the time to carefully analyze their reviews and use the business intelligence to shape their services.
- In an analysis of over 5,000 patient reviews on Vitals, data researchers found that “time,” “staff,” and “office” are the three most common words found in reviews. “Diagnosis” ranked at no. 47, which goes to show that patients are looking beyond qualifications and professional expertise; bedside manner and service matter, too.
- Patients also complain online 4 times as often about a medical practice’s customer service – such as receptionists’ cordiality and doctors’ bedside manners – than about a doctor’s ability to heal, according to Vanguard Communications.
Does your receptionist need more training? How do patients feel about your bedside manner? Do people feel comfortable receiving treatment in your facility? With genuine feedback, you can position yourself to answer these questions. Don’t just look at your numerical ratings; make an effort to understand the overall sentiment of your patients, too.
Having a patient experience shaped after the voiced needs of your patients sets the stage for long-term relationships and a medical practice conducive to patient loyalty.