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The importance of reputation management in healthcare

June 25, 2020
Doctor with a solid reputation.

How frequently do you think about your practice’s online reputation? Do you know if your online reputation is positive or negative? Do you have a reputation management process to capture and respond to reviews from your patients?

Often, medical practices overlook the importance of their online reputation management. But the bottom line—it matters.

Research shows that nearly 9 out of 10 people conduct online research before making a buying decision and most of that time is spent reading online reviews. Reviews with star ratings 3 or above increase the likelihood a person will purchase/engage with that business. Healthcare is no exception. If your online reputation is negative or non-existent, it could be costing your practice money.

Thankfully, there are some easy ways that practices can fix this fast.

The impact of positive or negative reviews on your reputation

If we believe the research, then one of the first places a patient will look for information on their doctor is online.

Negative reviews can lead to:

  • Lower ranking: A negative review can immediately drop your practice to the bottom of a patients call back list. It will also drop your ranking online. Search engines like Google and Bing consider your reviews when ranking your business in search results. The fewer stars the lower on the results list your practice will appear—and no one is looking past page 1 results.
  • Brand damage: Negative reviews are linked to poor customer service and low patient satisfaction. This could result in existing patients leaving your practice for one with better reviews and service and keep new patients from coming through your doors.
  • Hard to undo: Having a lot of negative reviews makes it difficult to regain a patient’s trust. It will also take some work to undo the damage on search engines.

On the other hand, positive reviews can:

  • Pump up your ranking: If negative reviews lower your ranking on search engines, then positive ones should help increase it. Search engines want to return the best results for their visitors. Positive reviews can help you be seen by current and potential new patients.
  • Brand strength: Positive patient reviews and sentiments will help you build your brand reputation. More people will be willing to recommend your practice to friends, family and coworkers—expanding your patient base.
  • Easy to sustain: If you have positive reviews, there is less to manage at the practice level.

Easy ways to collect patient reviews

First and foremost, ask for it. The easiest way to get feedback is to ask your patients for it. This can be accomplished in several different ways. You can have them fill out a survey as part of your check-out procedures—paper or electronic. Make sure you are asking permission on the survey to use their responses in a public forum. You can send an email post-visit asking for their feedback.

An email linking to an online survey for practice relationship management.

This email was sent within an hour of the visit completing. The email links directly to the doctor’s Google My Business site, so the feedback will be immediately posted online.

There are potential risks with sending a review request email with out first knowing how a patient is going to respond. You may elect to do a customer satisfaction survey first to measure satisfaction levels. If the customer is highly satisfied, then you can send a follow up communication like the one above to provide feedback directly to Google My Business, Facebook, website, etc. This is a more complex process that will require automation tools to keep it streamlined and efficient for your practice. There are a number of patient engagement vendors that specialize in surveys and reputation management that can assist with this process.

Handling negative reviews is part of your online reputation management

Negative reviews are inevitable. All businesses will run into upset customers (patients) from time to time. So, what do you do if a negative review is posted?

The first step is to monitor your online reputation. Again, there are several vendors in this space that can assist you with automatically tracking your online reputation. If your practice comes across a negative review, here are some steps you should take.

  1. Don’t get emotional. Our natural reaction when we are criticized is to react with emotion vs. reason. There is a reason why that patient posted their comments. Take a minute, step back and analyze what is being said before you respond.
  2. Take it seriously. Don’t brush off the negative review. Investigate their grievances and use it as a learning experience to do better next time.
  3. Respond to the review. Figure out how to best respond to the message. If it is online, consider posting a response acknowledging the review and the actions you are taking to fix it. After that it may be best to reach out with a personal phone call to the patient. In most cases, this will be enough to diffuse the situation and in some cases the patient may update their review. Avoid getting into an online fight where you and the patient keep posting beyond the initial review/response. Respond once. If the patient keeps posting, try to reach out. Getting into an online argument can be more damaging then the original negative review.

Ultimately, you can use surveys and reviews from your patients to make improvements in your practice. By doing so, you will also improve your practice’s online reputation. The goal is to get accurate and honest answers from your patients and reap the benefits of effective online reputation management.

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