In 2016, the internet replaced word-of-mouth recommendations in a patient’s search for a new doctor. Today, digital resources like Google and online reviews are used nearly twice as much as traditional referrals. Online reviews are often a patient’s starting-off point on their journey to care, and 88% of referred patients use these third-party sites to look up physicians recommended to them as a next step. By enacting a few simple techniques, you can better ensure patients share and spread positive feedback across the web to build up the social proof prospective patients need to pick a new provider.
1. Be transparent about welcoming feedback.
People aren’t conditioned to rate and review healthcare experiences like they are restaurants, hotels, Ubers, and other consumer industries. For doctors, however, this is seriously problematic, because reading reviews is an important step in a patient’s decision-making process and often determines which provider they end up seeing.
The trouble with not having enough online reviews is twofold. First, it weakens your credibility to patients looking you up online. And second, it means your reputation is vulnerable: One frustrated patient could drag down your overall rating with a single negative review. On the other hand, having more reviews protects your online reputation and proves you’re trustworthy to prospective patients with an important decision to make. Remind patients that you welcome feedback. Most will leave you a review if you do one simple thing: Ask!
2. Make the process as straightforward as possible.
Patients today are busier than ever. Add the web, which brings along its own distractions, into the mix, and many patients you want to write you a review are likely to get sidetracked.
The digital age has raised our expectations for convenience. Making it easy for patients to leave feedback not only demonstrates that you respect their time, but it also improves the probability that they’ll complete the task at hand. Don’t introduce unnecessary complications like lengthy forms, requests to review you on numerous sites, or multiple verification steps. The more complex the process, the greater the risk of dropoff. Find ways to streamline the asks — and the actions — to capture the most reviews.
3. Collect reviews when the appointment is top of mind.
One way to make this process more convenient for your patients is to capture reviews at the point of care. Immediately following their appointment, they can spend two minutes supplying a review while they’re waiting to schedule a follow-up, get a prescription, or are otherwise occupied, and the experience is still fresh in their memory.
Collecting reviews in the office also increases the likelihood that your average rating is higher and the feedback is more positive. Overall, reviews of healthcare providers tend to be positive. But usually, only disgruntled patients turn to the web to write reviews after they’ve left the office. Don’t let a small but vocal minority hold your reputation hostage. Since most patients are satisfied with the care and services rendered, it’s imperative that those voices are heard and amplified across the web.
While empowering patients to leave feedback in the office is the most effective way to ensure they write you a review, sending reminders via text or email gives patients the option to review you later, whenever it may be more convenient for them. This encourages patients who might not have time in your office, boosting your overall volume of reviews.
4. Don’t let 1 bad review throw you off your game.
No matter how great you are at your job, the occasional negative review is inevitable. The good news? A small smattering of one- or two-star reviews actually makes your online presence seem more trustworthy. It shows patients that you haven’t manipulated the feedback in any way or gated responses on your profiles.
Another benefit of having a couple bad reviews is that they make you seem more likeable, too. In psychology, this phenomenon is attributed to the pratfall effect: Perfection is intimidating, but exhibiting a few flaws softens someone’s opinion of you. As long as the good outweighs the bad, don’t sweat the rare negative review, and develop a thoughtful response strategy to mitigate further damage.
5. Know when to respond.
In most cases, responding to reviews is a good idea. Thank a happy patient who leaves a positive review; acknowledge an unhappy patient’s frustrations. (Most patients who leave negative reviews just want to feel heard.) You can even gain real insight and grow from their feedback!
That said, if you’re responding to reviews it’s critically important to do so in a HIPAA-compliant way to avoid hefty fines or further angering a patient. Never disclose the details of an appointment, a course of treatment, or patient identifying information. You’re also not allowed to reply in a way that would confirm someone sought out your care. The safest and most productive way to engage patients is through a measured, thoughtful approach: Never lash out or get defensive when responding to patients online.
At the end of the day, your online reputation is a reflection of who you are as a physician and your patients’ experiences at your office. By adding to your stockpile of patient reviews through a convenient, streamlined process, you both protect and strengthen your reputation while developing an online presence that attracts the right kind of patients and grows your base.