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Nearly half of physicians do not monitor their online reputations. Experts say that is a big mistake.
The first thing to realize is that online physician reviews are written predominately by patients who are either delighted or disgusted by their most recent experience with your practice. As a result, a practice that provides good service most of the time, but occasionally keeps a patient or two waiting for an hour, can easily find itself with a relatively large number of scathing reviews.
But even if your practice has been hit by some negative reviews, keep in mind that new patients know that no practice is perfect. The best way to deal with a few negative reviews is to understand what's driving them, to try to anticipate and correct problems, and to build up positive reviews from happy patients to create a more realistic picture.
Here are some of our easiest-to-implement tips to improve your reviews:
1. Monitor rating sites
Healthgrades, Vitals, and Yelp are good places to start. A tech-savvy person with good judgment can take this on for your practice as "social media lead" - it may only take a few minutes per day to stay on top of reviews and respond as necessary (always encouraging the patient to call and never sharing personal health information online). This can be a great opportunity for a motivated staffer to branch out, improve his skills, and show off what he can do.
This person should report back to your whole office on what he finds. Reviews can be a wonderful resource to understand how patients see your practice. Applaud everyone's efforts to understand the strengths and weaknesses of your practice as it's presented online. Make sure to register as the practice owner on sites that allow you to respond to complaints. It's critical to respond quickly, emphasize privacy, and let the patient know how important it is to speak by phone or in person about the issue.
2. Don't forget payer directories
I can't tell you why so many payer directories are out of date, but inaccurate ones send many patients to physicians who are out of network; which results in unhappy patients hit with additional expenses they weren't expecting. This task might only take an hour or two every few months, but it might just save you a nasty review.
3. Resolve to communicate well with patients
Starting at check-in, simply keeping patients abreast of what to expect next and when to expect it can make all the difference - a patient told that the doctor is running 15 minutes late will be a lot happier than a patient who waits 15 minutes wondering if they'll be waiting an hour. While a doctor shouldn't be kept waiting for a patient to be roomed, it's important that a patient not be roomed long before they are expected to be seen by the physician - time can pass frustratingly slowly stuck in a white room with a poor selection of magazines. Your whole team should be vigilant about keeping patients informed.
4. Help patients understand payment responsibility
Many patients end up confused and angry at the practice when hit with unexpected costs, and they often turn online to voice their displeasure. It's in everyone's interest to be clear about what the patient will be expected to pay at their visit - and of course, it's important for your bottom line that your staff is comfortable collecting in a professional manner.
5. Check-in at check-out
If you have staff dedicated to checking patients out, they can play a hugely beneficial role by simply and sincerely asking each patient how their visit went. When the practice messes up (and nobody's perfect), having somebody listening to the complaint can make a huge difference. If the patient is really upset, the administrator can personally offer a heartfelt apology.
6. Aim to delight
It's amazing to see what a truly service-oriented staff can do. When patients are greeted uniformly by staff who are personally committed to caring for the comfort of each patient, your practice can stand apart from the typical practice where staff seem disinterested and/or too busy to bother. A side benefit of the high-attention-to-patients practice - it's much more pleasant to work at too!