Five tips for improving your practice’s reputation

Improving your reputation has never been more important.

COVID-19 has led to substantial changes in the way medicine is practiced.

Whether it’s having to re-prioritize routine visits or adopting remote care via telehealth, it’s challenging to connect with patients in the same way you used to. While you always strive to excel as a physician, increasingly your practice seems to suffer from disgruntled patients and unhappy staff. Sound familiar?

If recent operational changes have led to negative online reviews, your practice is not alone.

You know your practice’s reputation could be hurting you, but how do you correct underlying problems quickly, and ensure improvements you make stay in place?

I always recommend beginning with an audit.

Do online reviews patients leave for you as a physician speak to your ability to deliver exceptional outcomes, but mention nothing of your bedside manner?

Most physicians offer fantastic care in difficult and high-pressure circumstances on a daily basis, but we all fall short at times. Are you being transparent in a human-centric world, or are you being stoic? While patients may respect your education, years of service, and expertise, what they are looking for these days is someone they can relate to. Look for simple ways to connect on a human level. Make eye contact, appear unhurried—even if the appointment time is short —and always leave time for questions.

What changes can be made to my office layout, patient trafficking, and waiting time?

One exercise that’s proven to be the most effective at evaluating a practice’s online and offline patient experience is to have members of the leadership team go through the entire journey themselves—from pre-appointment and an in-office visit, to receiving post-appointment communications and follow-up. Take notes on where you, as the patient, would like to see improvements. Perhaps you’ll notice there’s paperwork that could be completed online rather than having stacks of forms on knees on the day of appointments. You could spot potential for a more soothing waiting room TV experience—home improvement or nature shows over anxiety-inducing news channels. Maybe you see patients are forced to walk a long way to the front door and look to lease additional parking spots or ask team members to park further from the entrance.

How can you avoid communication failures about possible surgery outcomes and risks

Make health literacy a core value in your practice for all staff. Offer patient education materials such as printed collateral, emails with embedded educational videos, or create a resource section on your website with search functionality. For more complicated patient results or planned surgeries, have a staff member follow up via phone to ensure the patient is adequately prepared for their next steps.

Should I ever consider offering a refund to a disgruntled patient?

Have a few services or products you can offer a disgruntled patient that have a high perceived value but come at a low cost to the practice. Ideally something with upsell potential. If the patient is unwilling to accept, always look to offer a refund. The damage they can do to your practice online will cost you five times more than the value of the procedure you’re refunding.

While I’m implementing this advice, what can I do to positively impact my online reputation today?

Every practice has goodwill ambassadors, you just have to be willing to ask for their help. Proactively solicit positive reviews from your best patients and watch the good bury the bad. Ask for written or video testimonials – these can be leveraged in collateral, on your website, embedded in an email, shared on social media, and so much more. It’s important you respond to reviews and comments, too, whether it’s via email, online, or on social media. Avoid a canned response and opt for something personalized and sincere—it’ll show you care.

About the Author

Daniel Fernendez is the Chief Experience Officer at Symphony — an award-winning patient experience and healthcare communications firm.