Patient Reviews: A Complete Guide for Healthcare Marketers

August 19, 2019

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Survey research shows that 66.3 percent of consumers view patient reviews as influential when finding a new primary care physician.

More importantly, patients have a higher likelihood of leaving positive reviews on their provider in 2018 compared to 2017.

This further cements the fact that, for healthcare marketers, online patient reviews are more important than ever. More positive reviews mean a better online reputation, which can easily help you attract and retain patients. 

How to Get More Patient Reviews

If you can count your online patient reviews with one hand, or if you don’t feel like your provider profiles on sites like Google, Yelp, Facebook, Healthgrades, RateMDs, Vitals, and other healthcare review sites aren’t compelling enough, you’re in luck.

Ensure Compliance

You have to know which review sites allow you to request reviews and encourage feedback from patients.

Some sites — Yelp, for example — frown upon healthcare providers asking their patients for reviews. Other sites — like Google — are the opposite, even providing free tools for providers to reach out proactively for online reviews.

As you try to get patients to write reviews of your practice, ensure that your efforts are going to be in compliance with each individual review site’s guidelines. You want to be rewarded, not penalized, for asking patients for reviews.

Time Your Requests

To ask your patients for reviews in a thoughtful and meaningful way, you’ll want to time your review request email campaigns so that they occur at an appropriate time.

For example, a hospital doesn’t want to ask people for reviews while they are undergoing a difficult treatment, and a cosmetic surgery clinic doesn’t want to ask people to review them while they are still recovering from surgery. Pick a sensible time to contact patients, and automate your review requests.

Provide Reminders

Sometimes, all patients need is a reminder for them to leave you a review. A handout is perfect: hand it over to the patient right after their appointment and explain that you’d love to hear their feedback.

The handout can be in the form of a card, a piece of paper attached to the receipt, a sticker, or even a few lines of text printed on something you give away to your patients after their visit.

Remember: patients depend on doctor reviews, and they won’t hesitate to write a great review if they were happy with their experience. Review request handouts are an effective tool to help you capitalize on this opportunity.

Run Email Campaigns

Do you collect patient email addresses when they book an appointment or visit your location?

If so, then you’ll quickly realize that email is one of the most effective patient review tools today. In fact, 70 percent of reviews come from post-transaction emails.

You can also integrate your review requests into your monthly patient newsletters. When writing your message to patients, be sure to add a link to your profiles on specific review sites so that it takes patients only a few clicks to share their experience.

Running an email campaign manually takes up valuable time that could be used for more important tasks. Thankfully, there are powerful review generation tools for healthcare organizations looking to streamline review requests via email (and SMS).

You can also integrate your review requests into your monthly patient newsletters. When writing your message to patients, be sure to add a link to your profiles on specific review sites so that it takes patients only a few clicks to share their experience.

Improve the Patient Experience

You should also strive to provide a brand of personalized service that prioritizes patient experience above all. After all, average services seldom result in reviews.

Patients are most likely to review a physician or medical facility when they’ve received superior personal care, or — on the other end of the spectrum — when they are angered by what what they perceived as a shortcoming in the level of care received

A study from Prophet and the GE Healthcare Camden Group revealed that 81 percent of consumers are “unsatisfied with their healthcare experience.” Also consider this stat from the Beryl Institute, which says that the patient experience is “significant to the healthcare decisions” of 91 percent of consumers.

These findings suggest that today’s healthcare consumers are more vocal than ever about the patient experience. They are looking beyond medical skill or quality of diagnosis in order to assess other aspects and interactions across the continuum of care, such as bedside manner, office environment, and customer service.

Providers will need to go beyond the traditional “fix-what’s-broken” approach and place their focus on delivering better patient experiences. Healthcare is no longer just about treating illnesses and preventing disease; it’s about creating a stress-free experience and cultivating a meaningful doctor-patient relationship.

By creating a better patient experience, you create something that people are actually ready to promote online.  

Respond to Existing Reviews

When consumers leave doctor reviews, they expect a response to their feedback. Unfortunately, two-thirds of consumers never get a response, which is a lost opportunity.

Responding to reviews shows that you care, which is absolutely vital for any healthcare organization. Patients want to know that their reviews count for something and that it can affect the way a provider perceives patient care and experience.

According to the research, businesses also begin to get 12 percent more reviews when they start responding to existing ones. (Responsiveness also leads to an increase in overall ratings by 0.12 stars.)

It might seem easy to respond to every patient review, but organizations also need to be aware of existing HIPAA guidelines, which protect patient data. Violating HIPAA rules when responding to reviews bring potentially massive penalties in the tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars.

One way to avoid having this issue is by creating pre-drafted responses like those created by the marketing team at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital

Marketing coordinator Saran Zamora said that these responses tell the reviewer that the hospital is aware of their comments. They also encourage patients to take the conversation offline and provide more detailed feedback.

With a carefully-worded response, any healthcare organization can leverage each review to improve the experience and show current and future patients that every piece of feedback is valuable.

Why Ask for Patient Reviews?

The truth of the matter is that people often won’t leave a review unless you ask, and review sites are where your new patients are checking before deciding to book an appointment.

As one of the most effective healthcare marketing strategies today, asking patients for reviews helps you: 

Achieve Competitive Differentiation

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. 51 percent of people check reviews to assess their physicians and healthcare providers, and 47 percent of those who look up physicians online feel differently about the physician after viewing their profiles and reviews.

Inspire Confidence and Establish Trust

Reviews are a powerful tool for driving patient acquisition, and 66.3 percent of healthcare consumers view patient reviews as influential when searching for a new primary care physician.

More positive reviews tell prospective patients that you are a trustworthy doctor that goes above and beyond patient needs. Delivering a fantastic experience from check-in to the post-visit call can also inspire patients to provide valuable feedback.   

Understand the Patient Experience

A research study found that online reviews and ratings closely match the patient experience in hospitals, and provide a pretty accurate online prediction of patients’ offline experience. Providers can use doctor reviews to understand what they’re doing right, and where there is room for improvement. 

Check out our comprehensive guide on how to ask customers for reviews. You can also read below for some best practices in getting patients to write reviews.

Patient Reviews are More Persuasive Than Ever

The Voice of the Patient is louder and more persuasive than ever, with healthcare consumers turning to online doctor reviews, social media, and healthcare sites to find a new doctor, make a decision about hospitals, and learn more about the quality of care.

Maintaining or improving a group’s online reputation requires listening, managing, and responding to patient reviews and feedback. Over time a review request process might be needed to further encourage patients to leave reviews.

All of these methods systematically improve ratings and generate the kind of social proof that helps patient acquisition. Related research also found that reviews tied to review requests recorded higher ratings than did unprompted reviews.

As the clout of healthcare consumers grows, so do their options. To encourage patients to promote their organization online, providers must first be able to listen to feedback, foster trust-based relationships with patients, and consistently deliver experiences that captivate and go beyond achieving better health outcomes.

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