If you’re like most doctors today, you’ve begun to realize that a healthy online presence can make or break the success of your practice. Who you are online matters more than ever.
Around 84% of today’s patients say that they research new primary physicians and medical practitioners online before setting foot into a doctor’s office. This means that your patient knows what others say about you before he or she ever meets you.
This isn’t a passing trend. In fact, a study in the US National Library of Medicine reports that more than 90% of people now turn to online reviews before engaging in business with companies from any industry. As we move into 2018, these numbers will continue growing until almost all of your patients know your reputation before you know them.
When patients find doctors with excellent online reputations, they’re likely to spend more money to see them. In a recent study, 48% of patients said that positive online reviews can convince them to go out-of-network for treatment, as they value quality of service over care affordability.
If you don’t know where to start with your online presence, or if you’re not sure if you even have one, Status Labs is here to help! With 2018 fast approaching, The twenty-five tips below will help you better understand and cultivate your online reputation so you can improve your practice for the coming year:
1. Self-Assess Your Current Online Reputation
Have you Googled yourself lately? If you don’t know what’s being said about you or your practice online, you need to self-assess your current reputation. In 2017, patients commonly checked doctor reviews on websites such as Yelp, ZocDocs, WebMD, RateMDs, Healthgrades, Google Reviews and Angie’s List. If you find your practice on any of these websites, look at what patients are saying.
After exploring various review websites and the first few pages of Google, you’ll have a better idea of your current online reputation.
2. Monitor Your Reviews Proactively
Set up Google alerts that will email you whenever your name or the name of your practice is mentioned online. Read each new mention of your practice carefully and closely monitor your online reputation every day.
This proactive approach will allow you to better manage your image and improve the success of your medical practice.
3. Treat Every Patient Like a Reviewer
Remember that every patient that calls or comes to your practice is a potential reviewer. Treat each patient with the utmost respect, projecting the image you want your practice to have. For example, if you’d like patients to report courteous behavior and compassionate staff (and you do), go above and beyond to ensure each person experiences just that.
Remember, in today’s high-tech society, what you say to a patient could be posted online immediately.
4. Request Feedback
If you’re not receiving many online reviews, it might be because you’re not encouraging patients to leave them. Ask your patients if they’d be willing to leave reviews about their experiences online when you send them follow up emails.
According to a 2016 survey, 70% of consumers said they’ll leave a review for a business if they’re asked to. If you’re concerned about asking for public feedback, know that requesting reviews rarely hurts a practice. In fact, more than 50% of patients report leaving positive reviews when they do rate a business. To compare, only 7% of patients write negative reviews.
5. Hire a Reputation Firm
If your online reputation has gotten away from you, or if perhaps you’re just too busy to take the necessary steps to improve it, you may want to seek out professional assistance by hiring an online reputation management firm. These firms staff teams of professionals who can keep your online image focused on the positive aspects about your practice so you can put your best foot forward when being considered by new patients.
Reputation firms can also offer advice on responding to negative patient reviews and on improving doctor/patient relationships online.
6. Address Critiques Objectively
Before you do anything about a critical review, address it objectively. Consider the situation from the patient’s point of view, from a legal standpoint and from the public’s point of view. Examine the most professional response and how you can minimize the damage to your reputation while respecting confidentiality laws.
If you are feeling heated and upset by a negative review, come back to the review later on.
7. Think Carefully Before Addressing Anyone Online
Nothing looks worse than a doctor arguing with a patient online. For example, if a past patient claims your practice missed a diagnosis, to dispute this online would breach doctor/patient confidentiality laws and cause you to appear unprofessional.
Instead, doctors are encouraged to ask the patient to contact the practice for a specific response while offering apologies. Always address reviews professionally and do what you can to make it right. Do not acknowledge that a patient was in your office, or that you provided treatment for both positive and negative reviews.
8. Don’t Create Fake Reviews
Filling a website with dozens of fake positive reviews might sound like the easiest way to improve your online reputation. Instead, this can quickly ruin a practice. Not only is this fraudulent behavior, but many review sites regularly scan for fake reviews.
If the authenticity of your positive feedback cannot be verified, the reviews may be removed and your practice may be flagged for fabricated reviews. It’s just not worth it.
9. Respond to Positive Reviews
When you receive a positive review, thank the patient for his or her kind words about your practice. Leave an uplifting, professional response that shows your commitment to patient satisfaction. Do not, however, share any patient information that could violate privacy laws.
Stay clear of phrases like, “It was great to see you,” or “Thank you for visiting the office.” Keep it vague and positive such as, “Thank you for the kind words.”
Patients prefer visiting practices that demonstrate active engagement with online reviewers.
10. Respond to Negative Reviews
Just as you should respond to positive reviews, you should also respond to patients who leave negative feedback. As previously noted, do not do so from an emotional state and always consider your response carefully. Ask yourself if anything you write violates confidentiality laws and if it shows your practice in the best possible light.
Most patients feel that it’s important for doctors to respond to all online feedback. In fact, only 27% of patients found it minimally important, or not at all important, for physicians to respond to negative reviews.
The right response can neutralize a negative review, preventing it from further damaging your reputation.
11. Don’t Get into Online Arguments
When you respond to a negative review, an upset patient might try to antagonize you into an argument. Regardless of what is said, even if the patient is lying, participating in an online argument will do worse for your reputation than the review itself.
Always respond professionally. If a patient instigates an argument, offer to discuss and resolve the matter privately, but do not otherwise engage in a dispute.
12. Promote Positive Reviews on Your Website
The positive reviews you receive can be your best marketing material. Promote positive reviews on your website, use quotes from happy patients in your marketing and draw attention to the good things your patients say about you. Before sharing or embedding patient reviews, however, always seek written consent from the patient to protect his or her privacy.
Remember, there is no better narrator for your success stories than a satisfied patient.
13. Be Extra Careful of Patient Privacy Laws
Patient privacy laws must be respected when responding to online reviews. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability ACT of 1996 (HIPAA) obligates every healthcare practitioner to protect patient privacy.
Information gained through any part of the patient’s care should never be published publicly without proper authorization. Best practice is to never confirm that the patient was seen by your clinic, according to Dr. Danika Brinda of Planet HIPAA. Instead, thank the patient for sharing feedback, and if necessary, invite further discussion in private.
14. Train All Staff in Customer Service Best Practices
Patients leave reviews about their entire experience with a practice, not just with their doctor. Train every staff member in customer service best practices and make it company policy to follow these practices closely. Each phone call, front desk conversation and nurse interaction should be handled with friendly, professional behavior.
When patients read reviews, they’re not always focused on the quality of healthcare that each review reports. It might surprise you to learn that a combined 48% of patients say they value the friendliness of the medical staff and the ease scheduling appointments over other information when reading online reviews.
Every member of your staff, even those who do not regularly interact with patients, should be trained in the company customer service policy.
15. Maintain a Social Media Presence
Social media is an excellent way to find new patients, engage existing patients and improve your online reputation. Maintain a social media presence that provides useful information, updates about your practice and helpful, respectful answers to patient questions.
Many patients turn to social media in their online inspection of a healthcare provider. If you don’t have a presence, you’re selling your practice short. Over 40% of patients report that social media affects their choice in a healthcare provider and facility.
Today, 31% of healthcare professionals have already turned to social media for professional networking. Join these businesses and shine brighter than your competition in 2018.
16. Keep a Regular Social Media Posting Schedule
Maintaining an effective social media account for your practice requires consistency. The right posting schedule will boost your traffic and help you find new patients.
Include your posting schedule in your organization’s social media guidelines to keep your staff on the same page. Over 30% of healthcare organizations provide similar social media guidelines to staff. If you do not have staff in charge of managing your social media, consider outsourcing the job to a reputation management firm.
17. Be a Thought Leader in Your Field
Don’t settle for being an off-line doctor. Become a thought leader in your field. A thought leader drives innovation and brings new ideas to his or her given industry. Such leaders become popular, well-respected professionals in their fields, which increases exposure and boosts their online reputations.
Becoming a thought leader isn’t something you can earn a degree for and be done with, it’s a process. You must establish yourself as a reputable professional, refine your skills and bring new, improved ideas to the field on a regular basis.
18. Keep Your Online Private Life Private
When your patients look you up online, you don’t want them to see your nights out with friends, family barbecues and casual social media updates. Keep any private online profiles restricted so only friends can view them and never post personal opinions, photos or videos on your professional accounts.
Ideally, your patients shouldn’t find your personal social media accounts even if they go looking for them. If you have private information online and cannot remove it, an online reputation company can help.
19. Register Your Name as a Domain and Secure Relevant Web Properties
Registering your name as a domain dramatically improves your search engine optimization (SEO) and it can even protect you from scandal. When potential patients Google your name, the domain that matches your name will appear at or near the top of the page. If you don’t own this domain, someone else could purchase it for their own means or even to use it against you.
For example, a disgruntled patient or competitor could buy an unregistered domain – i.e. www.DrYourName.com – and post false content about you there.
You’ll also want to secure other relevant web properties on professional website, blogging platforms and more.
20. Verify and Claim Your Google Business Listing
Claiming your business on Google provides a good starting point to control what’s displayed about you on Google searches. This includes business location, images, hours and reviews. Once claimed, you can use Google Business tools to improve your listing.
Visit www.google.com/business and log in with your professional Gmail account to create your free Google listing.
21. Read Reviews of Other Doctors to Identify Trends and Pain Points
Researching the competition is among the best ways for businesses in any field to boost their success. Read reviews from other local doctors so you can identify pain points and trends that impact what other patients are saying.
The more you know about how and why your competition succeeds or fails, the more information you have available to help improve your private practice.
22. Know Your Audience and Keep It Professional
Whether you’re posting on the company blog, your practice’s Facebook page or in response to a positive review, know your audience. Consider your patient demographic and use it to define how you present yourself. Also keep every post professional, clean and polite.
Doctors, more than many other types of professionals, must maintain complete professional presentation and neutrality.
23. Be Transparent
Transparency is possibly the most important aspect of a doctor/patient relationship. Patients currently have access to more information than ever. From medical billing, to staff/patient interaction, transparency can win many positive reviews when handled appropriately.
24. Temper Your Expectations
Remember, overhauling your online reputation is a marathon, not a sprint. If you start cultivating your online reputation now, it will not look perfect in five days. However, if you work on your reputation every day, proactively address reviews and continue to improve your practice, you could end 2018 with an excellent online presence.
To put it into perspective, Google typically recognizes index profile changes every two to six weeks. This means you can expect some small changes about every month, but you will not dominate the front page of Google after one long night of reputation repair.
The more time you can devote to this, the better. If you don’t have hours of extra time to devote to managing your presence, consider outsourcing to someone who does.
25. Treat the First Page of Google as Your Business Card
Whether you like it or not, Google results are the new business cards. It doesn’t matter what your traditional advertisements say if your potential patients find contradictory information on the front page of Google. Often, when a patient Googles a practice, he or she will look for another physician in seconds if the front page lacks information or displays negative reviews.
According to a 2016 survey, 88% percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as they trust personal recommendations. Furthermore, 90% of consumers read fewer than ten reviews before forming an opinion about the business.
If your online reputation is less-than-perfect, launching a proactive approach will improve your practice’s success. Online reviews are a modern concern for practitioners in all fields of healthcare and the number of platforms used to facilitate patient reviews is rapidly increasing.
Whether your reviews are positive, negative, or nonexistent, knowing what’s out there is the first step in protecting both yourself and your practice.
Status Labs is the premier digital reputation management firm, with offices in Austin, New York, Los Angeles, London and São Paulo. For more information visit StatusLabs.com or sign up for a Free Consultation.
Source: Status Labs