Gone are the days when you found a butcher, baker, or candlestick maker by thumbing through the Yellow Pages. Today, people rely heavily on online reviews when choosing everything from a plumber to a physician.
That's why a positive online profile of your medical practice is a vital piece of marketing strategy. One negative review or comment could tank efforts to grow your practice. Even if the review's validity is questionable or entirely unwarranted, potential patients are turned off when they see one-star ratings followed by a strongly worded narrative of their experience.
Managing online reputations is especially difficult for physicians and medical practice owners. Unlike most other service providers, privacy laws prevent medical practitioners from commenting about specific patient encounters on online platforms like Yelp or Facebook. Therefore, many practices choose not to respond to bad reviews or online accusations at all.
But when medical professionals fail to address negative comments or reviews, it can make the practice look guilty by default, and that can have disastrous financial implications. A California psychologist reported new enrollments dropped by a third after former patients complained on Yelp about billing issues.
So if doctors can't address negative online reviews directly, what can they do to move the needle in their favor? Here are five ways for a medical practice to manage their online reputations.
1. Read Your Reviews
Ignorance may be bliss, but it can also be harmful. Many studies revealed that only 85 percent of doctors read their reviews online. If you don't have time to be aware of what's said about your practice in the digital realm, designate a staff member to keep tabs on your online reputation. Being aware of what's being said will not only help you better manage your reputation but may identify opportunities for improvement within your practice.
2. Dilute the Bad with the Good Ones
If you only have five reviews, one bad review can have disastrous consequences. It's only the law of averages. But if you have 49 positive reviews and one negative review, the overall impression of your practice gets much better. Potential patients won't give much credence to one outlier, especially when they see dozens of other favorable reviews. Getting positive reviews can be as easy as asking for them. Most patients will be happy to oblige if you ask them to write a positive review on Facebook, Yelp, Google, and others.
3. Respond to All Bad Reviews
Ideally, you should respond to all reviews, but you especially should respond to the bad ones. While you can't offer specific information about a patient encounter, you can respond with a generic message and a clear call to action. For example, a comment like "We're sorry to hear you had a bad experience at our practice. Please call our office manager at your earliest convenience to discuss the matter further." Whatever you do, don't get drawn into an argument, adopt a passive aggressive tone, or get personal. Keep your tone positive and remember you won't win every battle with a disgruntled patient. But others will see your efforts to right the situation, and that counts for a lot.
3. Maintain a Strong Social Media Presence
Creating a strong presence on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or the social media channel of your choice will make your practice's voice heard. Post regularly with educational information, staff spotlights, medical news, even humorous memes. The chance to interact directly with patients will provide a "face" to your practice instead of a cold, impersonal entity.
4. Create Effective Online Profiles
Don't miss your chance to write your own review. Various online directories and social media platforms are designed specifically for doctors. CareDash, WebMD, Doximity, and Sharecare each allow doctors to create their own profiles, including specialty services, insurances accepted, biographical information, educational background, and professional affiliations. Many doctors use these platforms as a "soft" advertisement to attract new patients.
5. Use Tools to Your Advantage
Keeping up with online mentions can be daunting. Set up a Google alert to find any new reference to your name or your practice's name. Knowing as soon as a review has been posted lets you manage it quickly instead of letting it fester for days or even weeks. Without setting up a custom alert, the damage could already be done by the time you find the review.
Online reputation management is tantamount to growing your practice. Bad reviews can cost you patients and, therefore, money. Following these tips will help you remain in good standing with current and prospective patients.