When patients are looking for a doctor, oftentimes, one of the first things they do is search online. In the past few years, online reviews have become critical for medical practices, as potential patients are reading them before they make an appointment.
According to Pew Research, 68% of word-of-mouth referral patients cite online reviews as the #1 driver of doctor selection. Reviews, both positive and negative, can have a big impact on how many new patients your practice is attracting. Read on to learn more about why online reviews are important, how they can impact your practice's reputation, and how you can improve your standing online.
Why Are Reviews So Critical?
Getting reviews for your practice matters for a few reasons.
- Patients need insight: Reviews help potential patients get a clear picture of what your practice offers and how other patients feel about your services. Nearly everyone conducts online research by reading reviews before deciding to patronize a business, and the same goes for medical practices.
- Patients love to be heard: Reviews can also be a great chance for a practice to get feedback from their patients. After all, your goal as a practice is to create healthy, happy patients. If people have complaints, they often won't say them directly to you. Review sites give people a place to voice their opinions in a public forum, where they can be sure their voice will be heard.
- Patients need to know you care: Reviews give you a chance to constantly improve as a practice. When you get feedback from patients, both positive and negative, you can use it to better understand your patients' needs and continuously enhance your services to increase patient satisfaction.
What Can Jeopardize Your Online Reputation?
- Outdated old reviews - people want current information about the practice they are researching. In fact, 16% of consumers think that reviews that are older than three months are too old to be relevant.
- Too many negative reviews - it's pretty clear that getting a lot of negative reviews can harm your online reputation. If potential patients see multiple one- and two-star reviews and very few four- and five-star reviews, this is a big red flag that it might not be in their best interest to make an appointment with you.
- Too many perfect reviews - this may seem counterintuitive, but sometimes, too many perfect, five-star reviews can hurt your reputation. Though it is a good goal to have, no practice is going to be consistently perfect in every way, and not every patient is going to leave 100% satisfied. To many people, too many perfect reviews is too good to be true and may be a sign that the practice isn't being honest. No reviews - before making an appointment with a doctor, new patients want to get a clear idea of what they can expect. Reviews help them form an opinion, so if you have no reviews
- Inconsistent listings - in order for patients to be able to find your practice, they need information like your name, address, and contact info. If, when researching online, they find multiple phone numbers or addresses, patients will be confused and left wondering how to reach you.
Build A Strong Review Profile For Your Practice
In order to make the most of online reviews and build your reputation, you need to take action. Right now, there are several sites where people can leave reviews. Google and Facebook often come to mind, but there are review sites that are specific to medical practices like Healthgrades and Vitals. To make sure that patients are getting accurate information about your practice online, be sure to
- Claim all your business listings online: Again, Google and Facebook seem like obvious options, but don't forget about industry-specific sites, other search engines like Yahoo and Bing, and directories like Yelp and Yellow Pages. Don't forget to make all the information consistent in every directory. Even small changes like differently formatted phone numbers could lead to duplicate listings.
- Increase the volume: Try to increase how many reviews you're getting over time. Without being too pushy, ask patients to leave a review online as they are checking out, or follow up with an email asking for a review. Publish positive reviews to your website and highlight the great things that people are saying about you.
- Respond to negative reviews: If you do happen to get a negative review or two, it isn't the end of the world. In fact, it can be an opportunity to learn from your mistakes and show potential patients that you care about making your patients feel satisfied. Respond to any negative reviews promptly and politely, and ask if there is anything you can do to remedy the patient's bad experience. Potential patients will likely see the negative review, but they will also see the excellent customer service that you provided to the person leaving the negative review.
- Keep an eye out for what patients are saying about you: It's also a good idea to practice social listening to keep your finger on the pulse of what people are saying about you online. Setting up a Google Alert for the name of your practice or the doctors who practice there will alert you if anyone mentions you online. This way, you can know right away if you're getting attention, both positive and negative.
Things To Avoid
Getting enough online reviews can be tough, but it's necessary to always obtain them through honest methods no matter what.
- Offering incentives: While it may be tempting to offer incentives for positive reviews or flood your patients with a lot of emails asking them for reviews, it will only hurt your reputation in the long run.
- Review gating: Gating your reviews will also damage your online reputation. Review gating is when you ask a patient to rate their experience with your practice. If they give your four or five stars, you send them to a review site to publish their review. If they give you fewer stars, you redirect them to a form where they can tell the practice about their negative experience. This means that lower- star reviews never get published. Google specifically does not allow this, and if they suspect that you are review-gating, they may delete every review you have. Although it has been a contentious issue and covered nationwide on many news channels, Yelp goes even further and explicitly marks some reviews that their machine learning algorithm flagged to be gated as “Not Recommend reviews”. This could tarnish any practice’s reputation severely. Always let your patients know that they are free to leave both positive and negative reviews, and never suppress lower-star reviews.
Get Where You Need To Be
If your online reputation is less-than-stellar, or you simply want to use online reviews to your advantage more effectively, it can be tough to know where to start. A lot of online reputation management services offer piecemeal solutions that aren't always cost-effective or aren't specifically tailored to medical practices.
If you're looking to boost your medical practice's online reputation, PracticeBeat can help. Contact us for more or diagnose your practice online with our simple-to-use tool.