By Daniel Beldowicz, Director of Digital Marketing
Medical practices, like most client service businesses, are challenged with the fact that patients (also known as customers) have the upper hand in spreading positive and negative experiences to the masses with the click of a button. Before a patient even sees a doctor or leaves the office, a review can be posted on anything from how he/she was greeted to the cleanliness of the office. Online reviews will impact business, positively or negatively, for any medical practice almost immediately. While some doctors may take online patient reviews lightly, research suggests that patients take them seriously. A healthy online presence is essential, as recent Software Advice findings showed. Eighty-two percent of patients who responded to the survey use online reviews to evaluate physicians. Almost three-quarters or 72 percent of patients use online reviews as their first step in finding a new doctor, so your online reputation is often a first impression for many patients.
Following are some top tips medical practices can use, to effectively manage patient ratings and grow their business:
Build positive reviews.
The number one strategy that medical practices can employ right now, is to start proactively cultivating positive reviews from current “happy” patients. It’s important to systematize this process and include it as part of the patient experience. This is akin to building your bank account, before you need to spend it. If you have the positive reviews and ratings in your account, you won’t be scrambling to bury a negative review when it occurs. This isn’t a scare tactic, it’s reality. People have bad days, whether it’s an employee or patient.
Deliver superior patient service.
While your marketing strategy should include regular follow up with patients, the emphasis should be around the servicing of those patients and providing the best care. A great patient experience, from beginning to end, will be the best marketing asset to your medical practice.
Monitor. Monitor. And monitor again.
One of the biggest challenges facing medical practices is that patients vastly outnumber the staff. Therefore, most medical practices do not have the bandwidth to constantly monitor what’s being said about them on social media or top review sites. Another challenge is that there are numerous outlets that need to be monitored to get real-time feedback from patients. They include the standard social channels, like Facebook and Twitter. In addition, there are the maps/places ratings and reviews, like Google Maps and Yelp. Also, there are the medical-specific sites to watch, like WebMD, HealthGrades and RateMDs.
Respond to negative reviews immediately and expertly.
Another obstacle for medical practices is that many of them lack the social media expertise to be able to adequately respond, should negative reviews hit. Also cited in the Software Advice survey, 75 percent of respondents felt that it’s “very” or “moderately important” for doctors to respond to online reviews. This could be a major issue, considering there are potentially a few dozen patients that flow in and out of a medical practice daily. One negative review not only can impact business that day, but for many months, even years to come because it will live online forever. Just one negative review can deter hundreds of patients from choosing your practice over another one.
At this point in time, no business can afford not to care about their online ratings. With increased competition, the medical field has evolved over the past few years to focus on patient satisfaction and quality of care, especially during the post follow-up visits. The risk of not monitoring or responding on social media, as well as not proactively accumulating positive ratings and reviews all can have a major negative impact on business. This is a process, not a one-time deal. It also will require someone to “own” the process. Don’t just leave this up to chance. It would benefit you to work with professionals who have expertise in this area and the time to dedicate to your practice, to ensure that your business will be positively positioned online and will continue to grow.
How is your medical practice handling patient ratings and its online reputation? Do you have a plan in place or a strategy that has worked? Do you have an interesting story to tell on this topic? We’d love to hear from you. Please share it in the comments below.
Daniel Beldowicz is the Director of Digital Marketing at Creative Marketing Alliance. To ensure that you are successfully managing your online reputation, it would benefit you to work with professionals who are experts in marketing. CMA can help! Contact us at 800-852-4269 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you’re interested in learning more about how to effectively manage your medical practice’s reputation online, check out CMA’s article, “Online Reputation Management: What You Need to Know” in the April issue of The Journal of Medical Practice Management.