In the healthcare business, reputation is everything.
Reputation affects your waiting room, your relationships with patients, and your patient conversion and retention. As Benjamin Franklin said: “It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it.” Yet so many doctors pay little attention to this fundamental aspect of business.
Today’s patients are more empowered than many doctors realize. Patients have immediate access to statistics and commentary both good and bad. And numerous Internet sites are out there (e.g., HomeAdvisor, Angie’s List, and Yelp) for consumers to review local area vendors.
Similar to analyzing plumbers and contractors, patients also have methods of analyzing doctors, clinics, and an array of health services. And your ratings are crucial to your practice’s success. According to a recent survey sponsored by Zendesk, “an over-whelming 90 percent of respondents who recalled reading online reviews claimed that positive online reviews influenced buying decisions, while 86 percent said buying decisions were influenced by negative online reviews.”1 With more than three billion searches per day processed by Google alone, your online reputation is vitally important to your practice future.
Given the plethora of social media channels, where is the best place to begin? The answer is simple: with your existing patients. They are going to tell you which social media platforms they use (if not, ask). Too many doctors invest enormous amounts of time and energy into sites such as Facebook and fail to get attention.
First, demographically speaking, many of your existing patients may not fit the Facebook profile. Second, an incessant amount of posts (on any platform) will not equate to patients filling your waiting room. Focus instead on establishing an online presence viable through organic Internet search, whereby prospective patients can discover your practice.
Although many doctors focus their energy on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, patient reviews will make or break a practice. Patients want to hear about others’ experiences with you and your business. Believe it or not, people will scrutinize online feedback and decide whether to make an appointment or continue treatment based on the positive or negative comments they find.
Therefore, the best place to begin is by conducting an Internet search on yourself to see what is being said about you, your practice, and your staff. In Google, key in your name or the name of your practice and determine if anyone has posted a review.
If nothing shows up in the results, this could be a reason why you’re not seeing many patients in your waiting room. If you have numerous negative comments, you need to better understand your practice and make the changes necessary to improve people’s impressions. Finally, if you find positive comments but not enough to push your rankings higher, create a strategic plan to boost review volume.
Online review hot spots
In 2014, nearly 60 percent of patients surveyed by the Journal of the American Medical Association reported physician rating sites to be “somewhat” or “very important.”2 An additional survey published by Software Advice showed that the number of patients using online reviews increased by nearly 70 percent from 2013 to 2014.3
Patients are most likely to use online reviews as a first step in finding a new doctor. Healthgrades is the most popular online review site, while Yelp is the most trusted.4
Yelp is likely more trusted because it has been around longer and is used by general consumers to rate restaurants, hotels, and vendors. But patients use other sources of practitioner reviews to make their selection, including Healthcare Reviews, RateMDs, ZocDoc, Patient Conversation Media, and well over 200 other competitors.
The big players offer overall ratings as percentages or stars, determined by review averages or formulas that give more weight to reliable contributors. Sometimes the full reviews are locked behind a paywall.5
Once you’ve conducted research and decided whether your patients have reviewed your practice, it’s time to build your online reputation. Assuming there’s little to no conversation happening about you, begin in the same manner that you would with social media. Choose those sites that have the biggest presence where your target market might shop around.
Aside from your website and blog, the big review sites are likely the top places for prospective patients to read about your work and determine if they should book an appointment.
Start by getting your entire staff involved. From the initial conversation at the front desk to a patient’s departure, find out where people are hearing about your practice. If they had a good experience, ask them to review you online. One idea is to develop postcards that have each of the sites listed with a sample comment.
Create links on your website that lead to the review pages, so patients can seamlessly offer their insights. Finally, you might propose a contest for patients who provide the most comments for that week or month. Most sites allow multiple reviews from one patient, and you’ll get credit for all those with your name or your practice’s name.
Most importantly, when one of your patients offers a positive comment about his or her experience, it implicitly helps your search engine rankings. If someone is searching for a chiropractor in your region, you will start to see your name listed higher than many of your competitors. Creating a regular commentary flow can continuously keep you on the first page of Google so you are more visible than your regional competitors. Advertising alone can’t pay for this type of result.
One of the most overlooked and cost-effective marketing tactics is reputation management. Patients new to an area or dissatisfied with their current physician are always seeking better care. It only takes a few minutes per day to increase your patient volume and keep up with the virtual conversation about your practice. Your success is only a few clicks away.
Drew Stevens, PhD, is a practice management expert who works with struggling chiropractors and revives the practice into one that thrives. He can be reached at drewschiropracticmarketing.com or 877-391-6821.
1 Gesenhues, A. “Survey: 90% Of Customers Say Buying Decisions Are Influenced By Online Reviews.” Marketing Land. http://marketingland.com/survey-customers-more-frustrated-by-how-long-it-takes-to-resolve-a- customer-service-issue-than-the-resolution-38756/. Published April 9, 2013. Accessed July 2015.
2 Hanauer, D, Zheng, K, Singer, D, Gerbremariam A, Davis M. Public Awareness, Perception, and Use of Online Physician Rating Sites. JAMA. 2014;311(7)734-735.
3 Leslie J. “Patient Use of Online Reviews.” Software Advice. http://www.soft wareadvice.com/medical/industryview/online-reviews-report-2014/. Published Nov. 19, 2014. Accessed July 2015.
4 McCormack M. “How Your Patients Are Using Online Reviews.” Software Advice: The Profitable Practice. http://profitable-practice.softwareadvice.com/how-your-patients-are-using-online-reviews-industryview-1113/. Published Nov. 20, 2013. Accessed July 2015.
5 Marbury, D. “Doctor Review Websites Are a Growing Factor for Patients Choosing Providers.” Medical Economics. http://medicaleconomics.modernmedicine.com/medical-economics/content/tags/jama/doctor-review-websites-are-growing-factor-patients-choosing-prov?page=full. Published Feb. 19, 2014. Accessed July 2015.