An excellent online reputation can attract prospective patients, boost retention, and even improve SEO. A little reputation know-how and the right tactics can help you stand out in your market.
When it comes to finding and choosing a healthcare provider, online reputation is word of mouth at today’s speed and scale. Seventy percent of people looking for care online check patient reviews, according to survey research from PatientPop, the practice growth technology leader. Yet, only 1 of 3 providers say strong online patient reviews are most important to their practice success.
If your practice is working hard to get found online, your efforts are wasted if you can’t impress with a standout reputation. The heartbeat of any online reputation is your collection of patient reviews.
In reviewing these tips related to reviews and reputation, it’s best to focus on the way your practice looks on Google — in your Google profile and with your Google reviews. With a consistent 88 percent market share for search, Google commands most of the online activity for people searching for and assessing a business.
Here’s what you can do to show off a stellar online reputation of your practice and physicians.
1. Understand the key components of online reviews
As consumerism continues to redefine healthcare choice, the Amazon effect is real. Patients looking for a doctor want to know what other patients think.
Reading the experiences and opinions of other patients is the single most influential online element in a patient’s decision-making process. In PatientPop survey research, 73 percent of patients said positive reviews are very or extremely important when looking for a healthcare provider.
There are three critical factors to online reviews:
- Total number of reviews
The average consumer reads about 10 reviews for any business, according to an annual survey from BrightLocal. But, you need more than 10 reviews to influence patients, as well as Google. That’s because the decision-making process for both includes simply comparing your number of reviews to that of your competition. A healthy number of reviews implies you have a steady stream of patients and, therefore, more relevant reviews.
- Average star rating
If you want to be considered a top healthcare choice in your local area, an average star rating of four stars or greater is imperative. In the PatientPop patient research mentioned above, most patients (59%) said they only consider practices with an average star rating of four or higher. These ratings also impact search results: if someone uses the word “best” in their search terms, Google uses a 4-star threshold when showing businesses for that query. If your practice’s average star rating is less than 4, you’re far less likely to show up well in local search results, giving your competitors a real advantage.
- Frequency of reviews
How often you receive reviews tells patients and search engines how timely and relevant the information is. According to BrightLocal, 48 percent of consumers say a review older than two weeks won’t impact their decision. Ninety-four percent say any review older than three months is irrelevant.
Of these factors, prospective patients say the average star rating is the most important deciding factor, per PatientPop research, the choice of nearly half the respondents (49.2%).
2. The key to more reviews? Ask for patient feedback.
Patients asked for feedback by their healthcare providers are 50.5 percent more likely to proactively submit an online review. To receive more patient feedback, you have to ask for it. That may sound simple, but it’s important to get it right without giving your staff unnecessary tasks. Asking for feedback via verbal request or snail mail survey takes work, and neither is likely to impact your online reputation.
Sending automated patient satisfaction surveys allows you to request and receive feedback at scale. Surveys should be delivered to each patient (via text or email) soon after their visit. Not only can this hardwired process quickly boost your volume of patient feedback, but it is also easy for your office staff to implement and manage.
3. Always address negative feedback.
Inevitably, patient feedback comes in all flavors. The majority of responses (65.8%) that medical practices receive usually reflect a positive experience, but negative reviews happen.
When they do, you have to respond to every comment. Survey research shows that an unhappy patient tends to stay unhappy if their issue isn’t addressed. In addition, prospective patients can see others’ concerns online, and will notice if you haven’t responded.
When asked about negative feedback they’d shared, 59 percent of patients who were contacted by their practice said they were satisfied. For those patients not contacted by the practice, the satisfaction rate was a mere 3.6 percent. The rate of dissatisfaction rose 276 percent.
Whether an unhappy patient offers their opinion on an online review site, via a survey, or by sending you an email, you should respond directly. For review sites, reply to the feedback publicly so others can see your care and concern. Be prompt (within 1-2 days is best) and concise. Avoid sounding defensive and never provide details that would jeopardize HIPAA compliance.
Establishing a coordinated strategy to nurture your online reputation can have a lasting positive impact on your business, driving both patient acquisition and retention. By automating patient satisfaction surveys and addressing negative feedback, you’ll position your practice to take control of, and improve, your online reputation.
PatientPop is coming soon to MicroMD’s Solution Marketplace – be on the lookout for our official launch or reach out to your sales representative today.