While the Internet revolutionizes patient privacy laws, it's also redefining the relationship between medical practitioners and their patients. While this relationship was once restricted to the exam room, patients are now empowered to take their musings about healthcare – the good, the bad and the ugly – online.
While the notion of having your practice reviewed on a third-party review site can feel nerve-wracking, the reality is online reviews are being increasingly utilized by patients. A recent survey found that more than 65 percent of people are aware of online physician rating sites and approximately 28 percent of potential patients search these sites. More than 40 percent of respondents deemed physician rating sites as "very important" for choosing a physician. In another study, 45 percent of respondents were willing to see an out-of-network doctor if he or she had more positive online reviews than an in-network doctor.
Today, in the U.S. alone, there are over 65 sites devoted to online medical reviews. While the structure and extent of information varies, most sites provide basic information about a given physician or practice, including education, specialty and experience. Physician ratings are assigned to a variety of factors influencing patient care. The most common factors include the physician’s communication skills, bedside manner, ease of scheduling an appointment, wait times, office and waiting room cleanliness, and staff courtesy.
Online reviews should not be dreaded or feared. They can be used as tools to help medical practitioners ensure the quality of patient care. You must accept the fact that online reviews are a reality. Whether you like it or not, online reviews are trusted by patients with increasing frequency. Your practice will have a better chance of performing well if you can leverage the power of positive online reviews, improving your online reputation.
A proactive online reputation strategy can help current and prospective patients perceive your practice as an established, credible, authoritative medical resource. Positive reviews can also suppress negative remarks, pushing them lower on search engine results pages to help reduce their visibility. Here are some effective strategies for monitoring and improving the online reputation of your medical practice:
•Keep listings updated: In addition to third-party websites such as RateMDs.com and Vitals.com, keep business information updated on search engines like Bing and Google. Consistent and accurate listings on multiple sites make you appear engaged with patients, improves Google page ranking and reduces frustration over incorrect on. This strategy is particularly important for small practices and clinics that offer unique features or services such as flexible appointments, short wait times, multiple locations, and multiple insurance plans accepted.
•Monitor online conversations: Monitor your patients and know what is being posted about your practice on social media channels and other sites. You can use tools like Google Alerts and Social Mention to monitor the digital landscape. To manage online conversations, you must first claim all public listings of your practice on local directories, including Google Places. By claiming your listing, you gain control of what gets published under your brand’s name.
•Respond to online reviews: It's important to track and address online reviews promptly and professionally. Instead of waiting for reviews to come in, you should look for innovative ways to encourage your patients to post positive online reviews for your practice. Make the review process simple. The easier you make it for your patients to leave a review, the more likely they are to do so. Consider implementing a tool that gathers reviews from various sites so you stay one step ahead.
•Use social media to engage patients: No practice can afford to evade the influence of social media, and therefore it becomes critical to monitor social media channels and actively engage patients. You can implement tools to help you track social activity and brand mentions in a dashboard format using a site like Hootsuite. By staying active on social media, you can create brand advocates, drive website traffic, and attract positive reviews and feedback for your practice.
•Provide unmatched customer service: Most often, unhappy patients will not complain; but are unlikely to use your practice in the future. If you do not provide excellent care, patients will rarely bother telling you what your mistakes were or how to improve. Unhappy patients, in addition to not returning to your practice, will likely tell others about their bad experience. The ripple effect of one unhappy patient can be very damaging to your brand reputation. Make sure your staff is trained on providing excellent customer service.
Managing your medical practice’s online reputation is a continuous activity. You cannot build a strong reputation overnight. This is why most doctors choose to hire professionals to help them improve the online reputation of their medical practice.
Manish Chauhan is Digital Marketing Manager at myPracticeReputation which is an easy-to-use reputation management solution for physicians to help monitor, protect and promote their medical practices at all times in the simplest way possible.