Patient Reviews: A Complete Guide for Doctors and Healthcare Marketers

February 18, 2019

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

What’s more important, however, is that patients have a higher likelihood of leaving positive reviews on their provider in 2018 compared to 2017.

This only further cements the fact that online reviews for doctors are more important than ever. More positive reviews mean a better online reputation, which can easily help you attract and retain patients. To get more reviews, we suggest the following tips:

  • Start asking your patients for reviews
  • Improve the patient experience
  • Respond to current patient reviews

Start Asking Your Patients for Reviews

Patient satisfaction surveys have long been part of the post-visit playbook for healthcare organizations, but hospitals and healthcare organizations also need to start asking their patients to leave them reviews on public-facing review sites like Google, Yelp, Facebook, and Vitals.

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

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.

Get More Reviews by Improving the Patient Experience

A study from Prophet and the GE Healthcare Camden Group revealed that 81 percent of consumers are “unsatisfied with their healthcare experience.” That’s a staggering statistic especially when you consider a 2018 report 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.  

Get More Reviews by Responding to Existing Reviews

When consumers leave 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.

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 not only tell the reviewer that the hospital is aware of their comments, but also encourages them to take the conversation offline to 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.

The Voice of the Patient is More Persuasive Than Ever

The Voice of the Patient is louder and more persuasive than ever, with healthcare consumers turning to online 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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