The online reputation of physicians is as important as their real-life reputation, but it can be more difficult to control. The Yelpification —the phenomenon of people becoming more aware of a business through online reviews — is gaining momentum in the healthcare industry. Physicians can harness the power of reviews to grow their practice and build brand entity.
According to an article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, more people are using online review sites before making the decision to visit a physician. The survey found that 40 percent of patients think physician ratings on websites are “somewhat important” and of those who used the web to search for a physician, while 35 percent selected a doctor based on good ratings. In addition, 27 percent avoided a provider with bad ratings.
People have started looking at a healthcare practice just as they look at any other product or service. Patients these days go to the physician-rating websites to express their opinions, which in turn serve as a base for building perception for other potential patients. It's “the new word-of-mouth (amplified)” and are the building blocks of any physician’s reputation.
The services in healthcare are no longer limited to just cost, as consumers are also looking at quality and experience. In fact, research highlights from the 2015 Healthcare Consumer Trends by National Research Corporation states that reputation in healthcare matters more to consumers when choosing a brand than any other industry, e.g. hospitality, retail, airline, etc.
All this means that physicians have to examine and manage their online identities. Their online presence determines how their practice is perceived as a brand among online users. These challenges demand physicians to proactively review and maintain their digital lives.
How can physicians turn patient reviews to a strategic advantage?
As a physician, you’ll have to devise a strategy to identify, monitor, and influence your digital reputation and credibility. Here are a few steps you should take to get startedL
Step 1: Get an idea of your own online reputation
First, Google and figure out what is being said about you. The search results will provide a general view of your reputation and how you are perceived in the digital world. Once you navigate through the ranking pages, it will give a clear picture of your online reputation. Set up an email alert using some specific keywords like your name, hospital’s name, your specialization etc., so that you stay updated whenever someone posts about you.
Moving forward, continuously evaluate some of the top physician-review websites like yelp.com, vitals.com, healthgrades.com and social media channels (like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn). A thorough analysis will help you identify what patients are saying about you.
Step 2: Create and monitor your profile on physician-rating websites
The physician-rating websites, such as HealthGrades, RateMyMD, etc. are gaining popularity. Create your profile on the major rating websites to stay on top of your online reputation. Patients post reviews, opinions and feedback on these sites — often anonymously — on various criteria like the physician’s punctuality, knowledge, bedside manner, and even staff friendliness. Even if you are not active on the Internet, your reputation is. The effect these reviews have on customers is tremendous and can affect the overall success rating for any physician.
Step 3: Don’t let the “1 star” reviews downturn your reputation
To deal with any negative trends, it’s important for physicians to maintain a fair perspective. These days, it’s the reviews that can bring patients to your practice or cause it to dry up. The real challenge is to deal with the unfavorable/negative reviews from unhappy patients. If left unattended, these can cause havoc on your online reputation.
Step 4: Be “proactive” not “reactive” for negative reviews
These reviews can have a huge impact on customers and possibly affect the overall success rating for any physician. Physicians need to realize the inevitable fact that there will always be some negative or critical reviews written about you. Dealing with the reviews optimistically opens up the lines of communication between the physician and the patients. Don’t fear a professional online interaction and figure out the “right way” to fight negative online reviews.
Step 5: Reply instantaneously
Whenever there is any review/feedback, reply instantaneously. Active social engagement is a positive sign of building a good online reputation. Address the comment publicly so that others can see that you are taking issues and complaints seriously.
By being proactive about online reputation management and responding effectively s, physicians can turn the tables around in their favor. A well-crafted response to a bad review can help protect your reputation, minimize the review’s negative impact, and help create a sense of credibility. On the other hand, a humble response to a five-star/positive review can reinforce customer satisfaction and act as a catalyst for positive word-of-mouth.
A physicians’ online reputation is very fragile, so it must be managed meticulously. In this era of patient-powered health, physicians can no longer choose to be silent spectators. Online reviews and ratings have become the defining factors for keeping your appointment book full. Harness the power of reviews to build brand entity and increase patient count at your 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.