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Pushing past average: How to create a stellar online reputation and improve patient experiences


Why great medical practices have mediocre online reviews, and how they can be improved through the power of the patient voice.

A medical practice’s online reviews hold significant sway over its ability to compete with other practices to attract and retain patients. Despite providing high-quality care, many physicians grapple with lackluster reviews and low ratings. This begs the question, why do great practices often have online reviews that fail to match their quality of care?

The answer lies in understanding the power of patient feedback and adopting a proactive approach to addressing patient concerns, thus mitigating future issues that would otherwise jeopardize a practice’s online image.

The power of the patient voice

It’s no secret that dissatisfied patients tend to be the most vocal about their experiences, and their peers are listening. Recent survey data show that 71% of patients rely on online reviews as the very first step to selecting a new doctor. Underestimating the power of reviews and neglecting to provide an accessible outlet for patients to address their concerns leaves many physicians relying on reactive approaches to address issues instead of taking proactive measures.

Moreover, statistics from rater8 data show that the unhappier patients are, the more likely they are to write lengthy, negative online reviews. The chart below depicts this relationship for over 1.6 million reviews, based on average rating, average sentiment score, and comment length:

How to improve your online reputation

Online reviews and ratings are the foundation of a medical practice’s overarching online reputation. An online reputation that inaccurately portrays a practice hurts patient acquisition and retention rates while also bringing down an organization’s overall morale. Recognizing a need for change is the first step toward improvement.

Luckily, attempting to repair a lackluster online image isn’t a hopeless endeavor. Your organization can develop a strong reputation improvement plan by implementing the following strategies:

Capture patient feedback

A medical practice’s reputation is dependent upon the patient voice — and what those patients say is dependent upon their experience at your practice. Thus, obtaining patient feedback is the best place to start when polishing a disproportionately negative online image.

While paper surveys or QR codes may yield a handful of responses, digital solutions are significantly more efficient and effective. It’s time for practices to connect and engage with patients where they spend their time: on their phones and in their email inboxes. Sending short, post-visit surveys to patients via email or text is much more effective in garnering responses and capturing data across each key area of the patient experience at your practice.

Disgruntled patients who might not have felt comfortable voicing their concerns during their appointment will feel more inclined to provide feedback when they can do so anonymously. At the same time, satisfied patients will be much more likely to share what the practice and doctors are doing well when they can do so in just a few quick clicks or taps, rather than filling out a hefty form.

Providing a fast and easy outlet for patients to give honest feedback is a meaningful first step in identifying shortcomings that will ultimately lead to practice improvement, satisfied patients, and greater new patient acquisition and retention rates.

Address negative feedback

It’s essential for health care organizations to engage with all the feedback they receive, both positive and negative, particularly in online forums. In responding to Google reviews, for example, your practice will not only address your toughest critics, but also affirm your biggest supporters, letting patients know their comments and concerns are not going unheard.

A recent Forrester study found that 83% of consumers feel more loyal to brands that respond to and resolve their complaints. Addressing the small issues your patients are facing will prevent them from turning into bigger problems that threaten patients’ trust in your practice. Further, understanding what you are doing right can help you expand and build upon those efforts, ensuring a continued positive patient experience.

Implement changes

Close analysis of patient feedback data will allow your practice to identify root causes and areas in need of improvement. The notion of conducting an operational overhaul may seem daunting, but tackling one area at a time is a feasible way to drive meaningful change. For example, do patient feedback results demonstrate a need for a more efficient check-in experience? Do they indicate unreasonably long wait times? Are there physicians who would benefit from further developing their bedside manner skills?

Consistent collection of patient feedback offers the opportunity to take your analysis even deeper through benchmarking. Measure your practice’s performance across similar practices to see how your group stacks up against other top performers and ensure your improvement goals are realistic.

Foster a culture of excellence

Outdated processes, gaps in knowledge, and lack of accountability can wreak havoc on a team — and trickle down to negatively affect patients. Empowering employees with clear expectations regarding the optimal patient experience, and arming them with the resources to make it happen, mitigates issues during appointments and facilitates smoother patient-physician interactions.

During an online health care discussion, Bradley Scheel, Vice President of Operations at AMM Healthcare, emphasized the importance of a positive workplace culture.

“If you don't have a good culture and you've got a lot of things going wrong, it’s very difficult to get employees to go above and beyond for patients,” Scheel said. “If you really want accountability, you have to turn it into a measurable concept for [employees] and communicate clearly the expectation of what your practice considers to be a good patient experience so they know what to strive for.”

It’s worth dedicating the time to develop tools for employees, such as standard operating procedures, patient workflow charts, and administrator handbooks. Set the expectation early on that everyone within the practice is united under a mutual belief that excellent patient care is the priority.


Investing in creating an effective patient feedback initiative, amplifying the patient voice, and analyzing the patient perspective will render invaluable, long-term benefits. The ability to address problem areas, empower staff members, and be proactive about issues will foster a better patient experience. Over time, this patient-centric approach will cultivate a steady stream of high-quality online ratings, glowing testimonials, and word-of-mouth referrals, ultimately garnering trust and attracting loyal patients to your practice.

Evan Steele is the Founder and CEO of rater8, a health care reputation management provider. His career in health care technology spans 27 years. He was a medical practice administrator for nine years before becoming the Founder and CEO of SRS Health, an electronic health records company focused on specialty physician practices. Evan holds a personal passion for delivering phenomenal customer service, ergonomic software design, and the effective implementation of technology to improve patient care.

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