Online Reputation Management Strategies for Doctors
How your patients will review your practice depends on how they feel during their visit. This means that to improve your online reputation, you’ll have to start with improving patient experience at the practice level, then utilizing positive patient experiences to build a positive reputation on the web.
How do your build a great physician reputation? Read on to find out.
1. Be proactive in collecting feedback from your patients
According to a 2016 survey on how patients use online reviews, 30% of patients who could be writing reviews aren’t writing. This could be due to the absence of an automated review generation process.
However, even in the presence of an automated system, many doctors complain about receiving only a few reviews. In many cases where practices send their patients a link to publish a review, they still didn’t get a response. That’s because you need to ensure you’re getting patients at the right time – when they are most likely to publish a review.
If you really want your patients to leave a review, encourage them to do it.
One way you can do this is by engaging patients in a conversation and then asking them for a review. Doing so will improve the chances of your patients writing reviews for you. Here’s how you can engage your patients in a conversation before asking them to write a review:
- Ask as a favor
- Let them know the time it will take (ex. “It will only take 2 minutes!”)
- Clearly reveal your purpose for asking them (ex. “Reviews are the lifeblood of my practice”)
- Clarify the process [keeping it easy will ensure more reviews]
- Ensure you’re asking them at the right time (immediately after they leave the office is typically the best time, as the experience is fresh in their mind)
Learn more about how you can actually convince your patients to write reviews.
2.Intercept unhappy patients & perform service recovery
As you start collecting patient reviews, you’ll start receiving some negative reviews too. Don’t worry, as a few negative reviews are good for you as they present a more balanced reputation online.
Also, when tracked proactively, negative reviews provide the opportunity to build and nurture a long-lasting relationship with your patients. A reputation management tool allows you to intercept your unhappy patients right after their visit, and hopefully before they post a review online.
The process of intercepting unhappy patients and performing service recovery is simple. It goes like this:
- Your unhappy patient rates you poorly using the tool
- The tool immediately notifies you of the negative rating
- You instantly connect with the unhappy patient, listen to their concern, and work with your team to turn the negative experience around
- After successfully performing service recovery, the same tool again prompts the patient to write a fresh review (which will now be positive)
Timing is important during this entire process.
For a better understanding, read the blog “how to intercept negative patient reviews to improve service recovery“.
3. Objectively respond to all reviews; positive or negative
People seeing your patients’ reviews online will also expect to see your responses to them. This way they get to learn about your attentiveness towards addressing your patients’ concerns and how you tackle your patients’ issues with your care or service.
According to a Software Advice survey, 65% of patients feel it’s “very” or “moderately” important for doctors to post a response.
Keeping professional courtesy, refraining from disclosing the patient’s identity, and addressing to the masses instead of the specific patient is the key to being objective in your responses.
Here are the guidelines on how you should respond to positive and negative reviews:
Responding to positive reviews from your patients
Create an uplifting, professional response that shows your commitment to patient satisfaction. Don’t write anything that could reveal or confirm the patient’s identity, to prevent yourself from violating HIPAA. Also, negative or positive, never forget to show your appreciation by always thanking your patients for sharing their feedback.
A piece of advice here: Keep distance from phrases like, “It was great to see you”, or “Thank you for visiting the office”. Try something that’s more vague and positive such as, “Thank you for the kind words”. Doing so will reduce the chances of confirming the identity of a patient.
Responding to negative reviews from patients
Before taking any action with a negative review, address it objectively. Examine the situation from all perspectives; the patient’s point of view, a legal point of view, and the public’s point of view. Then, create a professional response that can minimize the damage to your reputation while respecting confidentiality laws.
Software Advice suggests some Do’s and Don’ts of responding to negative reviews, which are very convincing.
Also, if you think that a review is falsified or inappropriate, you can report or flag it; asking the review site to take it down. The review site should comply – so long you can provide a credible argument.
However, before reporting, learn about the guidelines laid out by each review site. It will help you to be more objective with your request, improving the chances that the review site will comply with your request.
4. Train your staff in customer service best practices
Patients leave reviews about your entire practice; not just about the quality of healthcare you provide. It’s just the same when patients are reading reviews. According to a survey, 84% of patients look for information such as staff friendliness, ease of scheduling appointment, wait times, and office cleanliness/environment, etc., over other obvious details while reading reviews.
This calls for training every staff member in customer service best practices and making it a company policy to follow these practices closely.
From phone calls, front desk conversations and nurse interactions, to other things such as car parking, wait times, etc., all should be handled with friendly and professional behavior.
Here, you can take help from the sentiment analysis feature provided in your patient satisfaction survey tool. Sentiment analysis of your patients will help you understand what precisely bothers your patients, which will allow you to implement the required changes to your practice more effectively.
5.Build a strong patient community & network on social media
While patients are increasingly using social media for healthcare information, doctors are still reluctant about it. The reasons could be the fear of violating ethical and legal regulations, and the possibility of a misstatement getting shares on social media.
Contrary to all that, having a social media presence is vital for your practice’s growth in this digital age.
Marjorie Stiegler, MD, a Harvard trained physician and a healthcare social media strategist provides these reasons for having a social media presence:
- Curating a library of useful healthcare information
- Finding collaborators
- Promoting health literacy
- Growing your practice, and 17 more
On the point of reluctance in using social media, Marjorie says, “sharing your ideas with as many people who might possibly benefit (even if that is by challenging you or taking another view) is a good thing. Disseminating knowledge and advancing science are core reasons we publish in journals. Even the best academic journals have a ridiculously low readership compared to the web.”
To learn more about what Marjorie suggests for managing your professional reputation on social media, read her complete article on the topic.
6.Utilize content marketing to establish yourself as an authority
Healthcare content marketing is another way to build a robust online presence and reputation. Not only does it help you win valuable organic search traffic, but it also gives you a chance to establish yourself as a thought-leader with your ‘expert articles’ on related medical issues.
According to Pew research, 1 in 3 patients use internet for resolving medical issues. A Google research says that, on an average, patients go through 12 different online resources before finally picking a provider. All of these explain the reason why you should be investing your time and resources in content marketing.
Publishing useful content – even just one post per month – can go a long way in garnering appreciation from readers and giving you an effective means of selling your expertise without being overtly ‘sales-y’.
The above given physician reputation management strategies can help you in elevating your image online. However, while implementing these, you should always refrain from some practices that may prove to be harmful to your healthcare business. Let’s check out some ‘Don’ts’ of online reputation management for doctors:
- Don’t incentivize for getting positive reviews: Incentivizing (rewarding or discounting) for reviews isn’t just illegal, but is also a practice that is heavily scrutinized by review sites like Yelp, who will bury reviews and flag accounts that they think are paying for reviews. Review sites have their well-defined system to track these reviews. Once found guilty, not just your reviews will be removed, but it will also invite discrediting of your practice by the review site itself, thereby affecting your online reputation and ranking.
- Don’t hire someone to post fake reviews for you: Review sites keep a regular check on fake reviews. They don’t just remove a fake review from their site, but may also flag your practice for fabrication, which drastically impacts your online reputation.
- Don’t indulge in an online argument: Regardless of how much an angry patient tries to offend you into an argument, do not get involved as doing so will only discredit you. Always respond professionally, no matter what. If the patient still instigates an argument, offer to discuss and resolve the issue offline.
- Don’t mix up your private and professional life: Maintain separate professional and personal accounts on social media. Never post personal opinions, photos or videos on your professional accounts. Ideally, patients shouldn’t find your personal social media accounts even if they go looking for them.
Now that patients’ decision-making has shifted online, you should also focus on elevating your reputation on the web, so that you can positively influence prospective patients in your favor. While doing so, take help from a reputation management company who will provide you with a seamless process to ensure that managing your reputation isn’t overwhelming.
RepuGen has helped many healthcare providers and practices elevate their online presence with a stellar reputation management service. You can call us at 866-246-7891 for a free consultation or schedule a live demo of our reputation management tool.
Ajay Prasad is a serial entrepreneur, a business strategist, and a healthcare marketing expert with almost three decades of experience. He is the founder and CEO of RepuGen. He has built this innovative reputation management software from scratch, incorporating multifaceted artificial intelligence (AI) which has allowed for rapid growth, maximum outreach and a 95% user satisfaction rate.