Online Reviews: Not Just for Restaurants Anymore

September 22, 2021

By Toni J. EberhardtThe days of patients choosing a physician based on location, being in-network or a referral by another physician, friend or family are gone. While these sources are part of a patient’s decision-making process, tech savvy consumers are also reading online reviews before choosing a medical provider. According to a 2014 survey published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, of consumers that utilized online reviews, 35% chose a physician with positive reviews; 37% avoided doctors with negative reviews. Other industry surveys reveal that more than 75% of patients assess online reviews before choosing a physician.Online reputation management can be a source of more profitable patients; tech savvy patients generally are more highly educated, are younger and earn more money. For healthcare, this demographic translates into a better payer mix and ability to pay out-of-pocket costs.Employing three tactics will result in online reputation management that builds a funnel for new patients.(1) Be Assertive. Ask for reviews. A 2016 survey revealed that 70% of consumers will leave a review if asked. While asking a patient to leave a review may not be something a physician is comfortable doing, there are other options.• Provide a simple, standardized note asking patients to leave a review and disperse with treatment instructions. Physicians using this tool at Banner Medical Group saw double digit increases in positive online reviews.• Ask for an online review if a patient responds favorably to a satisfaction survey. Many healthcare organizations use a third-party vendor to send e-surveys to patients. If a patient responds favorably, the patient is automatically asked to leave a review, and he is redirected to the preferred review site. If the patient responds unfavorably, a message requesting more information is sent, and an operations manager contacts the patient within 24 hours; this approach decreases the chance of receiving a negative review as he feels heard.(2) Be Diligent. Consistently earn and ask for positive reviews. 73% of consumers do not feel that reviews older than three months are relevant. More reviews improve search engine optimization (“SEO”), placing the physician closer to the top in searches.(3) Be Responsive. A 2014 survey showed that 60% of consumers feel it’s “very” or “moderately important” for providers to respond to online reviews. When a negative review is posted, the goal is to move the conversation off the review site. That means a response such as, “We are sorry to hear you had a challenge scheduling an appointment and would like to get more information. Will you call our office at 555-555-5555 or email us at Thank you.” The patient feels acknowledged and others take note that the provider responded. This approach also ensures the conversation is not public and decreases HIPAA-related risks.Embracing the visibility of your reputation improves patient satisfaction and attracts more profitable patients.Toni J. Eberhardt is the founder and president of Prescriptive Communications, LLC. Ms. Eberhardt has nearly 25 years’ experience in marketing strategy and communications, public relations, crisis communications and public affairs in more than five industries with Fortune 500 companies. Ms. Eberhardt has worked in health care for ten years as a marketing and public relations executive with McKesson, Banner Health and FastMed Urgent Care.

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