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Physician Online Reputation Management in 2017

Posted by Mary Ann Hegvold on March 17, 2017

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Two years ago, when we first wrote a blog about online physician reputation management there were...

  • Fewer people writing and using reviews, 
  • Only a few review sites where people posted, and
  • There were no tools like you can find today to monitor everything about you.

Oh how times have changed.

But the main point of our blog is still solid. Online physician reviews can, and do, have a major impact on someone's purchasing decision. And even though a medical service isn't a traditional purchase, it's still a choice for most patients. Even for services they really need, they can choose from a few doctors. How will they do that? Recommendations is still most common. Those can be personal or online.

How DO WE USE Online Physician Reviews?

We often use them without even realizing it. When I searched my general practitioner in Google the physician website was fourth in search results, plus there's a huge box at the right on the desktop to feature him in Google. Many won't even get to his website to see what they have to say before exposure to many different reviews, as you see here.

We also naturally tend to gravitate towards sites we know and already trust like Health Grades or Yelp. Both of those beat the practice's own site for this doctor. 

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According to BrightLocal, a study published in December 2016 shows 84 percent of customers trust online reviews as a personal recommendation.

Of these people, 74% said a positive review makes them trust a business more. Thankfully fewer people (60%) said that a negative review makes them question the quality of a business. But that's still a lot of your potential customers who might think twice before booking an appointment after reading a bad review. 

How Much Do Online Physician Reviews Affect a Patient’s Decision?

92% of consumers now read online reviews versus 88% in 2014. Consumers are buying everything from lightbulbs to cars to surgeries and everywhere in between.  With the addition of mobile friendly sites as standard practice it makes sense that even more people are doing these searches. Simply because it's easier than ever before with a small computer in their hands at all times.

In 2016, the National Research Corporation reported that 47% of consumers indicated that a doctor’s online reputation matters. This percentage is tied with the restaurant industry for #1 among all local business types.

This means that some people don't regard the content of the reviews as highly as others. But if almost half of your potential patients think that reviews are important, then we need to help you find a way to be sure you've got the right tools in place. 

Take control of what is found online about you and your practice. It's one of those things that really can't be done in any effective manner manually anymore. A service that is pulling data about each doctor and/or facility is what we've found to be the best starting point. But then what?  (Find out what type of service we'd recommend for you in a free marketing consultation.) 

What To Do If Your REviews Aren't all Five-STARS?

If every doctor in the practice has a 4 or 5 star rating on all of the various review sites being monitored by your service provider – then rock on! You don't really need to do much other than just keep on doing what you do. 

The sad reality is that no matter how good our intentions we sometimes don't see eye to eye and that can cause a negative review to get published. Pause before replying, if you can reply. It's a very personal feeling when you see someone comment about you and your life's work. But remember, your response can actually make things worse if it's not carefully crafted and all facts taken into consideration.

Whenever possible I recommend the practice call that patient right away and have the discussion offline. That way when you respond online (if you can) you'll be able to state that you saw this and addressed with Mr. X privately because he is very important to you.

If PHI has been disclosed we especially don't recommend commenting. That's acknowledgement of the PHI by the healthcare provider and is best removed or at least left alone

Your review service can often help with removal of a review, especially if PHI is at hand. Ask them what they can do before you sign up for a service. Ask us if you're not sure what kind of review services are out there and what you get with each.

Whether you do it yourself or you engage a reputation management service, negative reviews should not be ignored. If you’re starting to see a few comments that aren’t as positive as you’d like, it could be a flag that someone at your practice is not interacting well with patients. Or perhaps there’s a problem with your operational flow that has caused some discontent. These are things that can easily be addressed, improving your patient experience and reducing further harm to your personal reputation! 

The Best Way to Manage Online Physician Reviews

Use a Service for Online Reputation Monitoring and Reporting

So that you or your staff aren't blind-sided by a negative review we recommend that you use a service that monitors everything and gives you a regular report on your status at each site, but will also inform you when a new review is posted out there in the web world. 

Use Staff or a Service to Make Listing Updates and Address Reviews

It's not enough to know what's out there, you'll also need hands to help correct things and address items as they come up in reviews. Most of the online review collection service do not review and update the data. They only aggregate it for you. You will want a service like what we offer at 30 Degrees North as part of an SEO program – since reputation and review sites play a role in your search results.

If you can't use a service be sure to pay particular attention to these five physician review websites:

  • Healthgrades.com
  • Yelp.com
  • Vitals.com
  • WebMD.com
  • RateMDs.com

Facebook could also play a role if you have reviews enabled on your business' page. You can turn them off on your own Facebook page if you'd like, however.

Do Referring Physicians Use Online Reviews?

While your best referral sources typically know you personally, there can also be those doctors who have heard of you and your capabilities but want to do their research before sending patients your way. What if they find poor reviews that you haven’t addressed? Or what if they see a few listings online but none of them have been personalized to “fill in the blanks” of the profiles set up by the review sites? Try to complete as much of these as you can (or have your service work on it for you) so that you have a fully developed presence online.

If you’d like to learn more about how we can help organize your physicians' online presence, contact us.

You may also be interested in the referral marketing process and how you can use your website to play a role in developing referrals. For that we recommend you download our free eBook.

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Topics: Medical Practice Marketing, B2B Healthcare Marketing