How Does a Negative Review Cost Your Practice?

November 14, 2017

Training your staff to prioritize patient service is a great way to protect your online reputation.

Online reputation matters. The trust and support of your patients can have a direct and significant effect on your bottom line. In the last decade or so, the importance of managing online reputation has become increasingly apparent. Before the internet, medical practices relied on word-of-mouth publicity in order to establish their online reputation and attract new patients. While word-of-mouth is still the primary source for drawing new patients, online ratings and reviews play an integral role in the growth of a practice.

If a practice has a solid reputation in the local community, patients will have a preference for that brand even if other practices are offering similar services for lower prices. The practice's reputation can help it differentiate its services in a highly competitive market and have premium pricing. However, in this age of digital communication, physicians have to be careful and responsive to any situation that may adversely impact their online reputation.

According to a study conducted by Software Advice, patients regularly check online reviews of physicians. Nearly 84 percent of patients use online reviews to evaluate medical practitioners, and almost 80 percent of patients conduct extensive online research before booking appointments. Patients put so much value in reviews that negative online reviews about their existing healthcare provider can make them choose an out-of-network provider. According to the same study, 47 percent of patients would go out-of-network for a physician who has more positive reviews.

Bad reviews can cost you money

In the past, sharing feedback was a private affair between the patient and the healthcare provider. However, in today's digital-savvy world, even a single negative review of your practice can go viral within hours. Negative online reviews translate directly into loss of business and brand damage. Moreover, a handful of negative online reviews can have detrimental effects on your reputation and revenue. A tarnished brand image will mean patients may not want to be connected with your staff or practice.

Angry patients tend to post negative feedback and spread bad comments on third-party review sites and online forums. A large number of potential patients who might have read negative reviews of your practice may lose trust in your staff and services.

Negative reviews can also affect your relationships with existing patients and business associations. Your business partners may hesitate to renew contracts or to provide patient referrals, fearing your practice's negative image will risk their reputation.

Not to forget that when potential patients read negative comments about your practice, they may reconsider their choice of healthcare provider and instead search for options that seem more positive and trustworthy.

Bad reviews can also have a severe impact on your SEO efforts. Not just regarding ranking, but also in the long-lasting effect of the negative online reviews. A negative comment, for instance, might live on the Internet for years and years.

Staff training can boost your online reputation

This may surprise you, but most bad reviews are not about lukewarm coffee or outdated magazines in the waiting area. Instead, most negative reviews come from instances of patient experience-related stress.

This "stress" refers to instances of poor customer service that leaves patients feeling neglected and ignored. When it comes to online reputation, everything loops back to patient service and the overall patient experience. An unhappy patient is louder, both online and offline, than a happy patient. It is worth remembering that a negative online review is just the communication of a bad patient experience, so your goal in improving bad reputation is to eliminate bad experiences, not bad patents.

Training your employees to prioritize the patient experience is an excellent way to be proactive about online reputation management. If your employees are consistently delivering excellent customer service, you will not have to spend much time and money managing your online reputation. In fact, you will be ready to start marketing your practice's five-star reputation.

Wrapping up

While it's normal for any medical practice to get occasional bad reviews from disappointed patients, it is wise to monitor your online presence and keep a check on your reputation by implementing appropriate measures. It is also vital to encourage your patients to post positive reviews of your practice. This is because if you have five positive reviews and four negative reviews, it is likely to result in lost patents, whereas 20 positive reviews and three negative reviews will indicate that you are a trustworthy practice that encountered a patient who could not be pleased.

It is time for healthcare providers to think of online reputation management in much the same way they feel about the latest billing software or state-of-the-art equipment for their office. It is a requirement of doing business in the healthcare industry.