Don't over complicate it: online reputation management for physicians and other healthcare providers is simple if you follow these steps.
If only you got $100 every time a patient mentioned the words "WebMD" and "cancer" in the same sentence, you could afford to leave your office, move to the woods and never hear about patients diagnosing themselves online again.
Of course, that's not how the world works. Doctors know better than anyone how much the Internet has changed the medical profession, in both good and bad ways.
Telehealth for rural or disabled patients? Helpful. Self-diagnosing every canker sore as a fatal disease? Not so helpful. Online reviews on sites like Healthgrades? It depends...
Your patients have shifted everything they do online, including getting recommendations. Carol doesn't have to ask her neighbor to recommend a good doctor anymore: the Internet can do it for her. In seconds, she can access reviews written by your past and current patients, telling her everything she wants to know about your waiting room and bedside manner.
This means that your reputation, which up until recently existed solely in the real world and was affected primarily by good old fashioned word-of-mouth, now exists primarily online.
The good news? It's still mainly affected by word-of-mouth, it's just that now that word-of-mouth takes place in cyberspace, mainly on online review sites. The even better news? Effective online reputation management for doctors and other healthcare providers isn't nearly as hard as it may sound.
The Doctor Will See You Now
Cultivating and maintaining a positive online reputation is a two-part process. Remember, your patients will review you online whether you want them to or not - so you can't control which patients write reviews or what they say. The only thing you can control is what kind of experience you give them.
Presumably, you're already giving your patients the highest-quality medical care that you can. However, it may be worth considering whether you can improve in other areas.
This is where any existing online reviews can be handy. If, for instance, the cranky Toe Fungus guy from last week wrote a negative review about your brusqueness, you may want to be mindful about being friendlier and taking a few more seconds to get to know your patients (before getting to know their toe fungus).
So, the first part of the process is giving your patients the best experience you can.
The second part of managing your online reputation? Getting those happy patients to be more like Mr. Yellow Toes... namely, getting them to write reviews.
Read Two Reviews and Call Me in the Morning
You probably know the difference between choledocholithiasis and costochondritis, so you can be forgiven for not knowing much about the importance of online reviews.
A brief review:
- They are very important.
Need more? Okay. More than 90 percent of Americans read online reviews at least occasionally, according to a recent survey. Health care providers are one of the categories that people are most likely to read reviews for, and people who read reviews take them seriously: 84 percent trust reviews as much as they trust personal recommendations from friends.
That means that many people - both prospective patients and anyone who stumbles across your reviews - will form an opinion of your practice based on what they read on Google or Yelp. Those reviews have a huge and direct effect on your reputation.
(By the way, getting lots of reviews is helpful in other ways if you're trying to attract new patients. Having an active Internet presence and consistently getting online reviews can help you rank highly in local search engine results, for instance.)
As for the review sites that matter for doctors, we recommend limited diversification. That is, try to get reviews on both the major mainstream sites (Yelp, Facebook and Google) as well as a few on healthcare-specific sites (Healthgrades, ZocDoc, etc.).
But don't overdiversify: it's better to have most of your reviews concentrated on 3-5 review sites than to have them spread out across 20 review sites.
The Rx for a Solid Reputation
Your waiting room is getting full, so let's wrap this up.
Here's what we know:
- Patients write and read online reviews, which influence the way they think about you and your practice.
- You can't control what they write but you can control the experience you give them.
- Having a large number of positive online reviews is the simplest way to boost and protect your online reputation.
- Your happy patients will write reviews if you ask! (Seven out of 10 respondents in the above mentioned survey said they would write reviews if asked to do so.)
It's critical to ask for reviews in a way that doesn't violate HIPAA or the privacy laws that apply in your area. You can try asking patients at the end of the appointment to review you on Yelp or Healthgrades, but that would probably feel awkward.
The Automated Approach
A better way is to contact patients after they leave the office (and only if they've given written permission for you to communicate with them via email and/or text message). Using an automated system like ReputationStacker makes this really easy to do.
Enter your patients' email addresses or phone numbers into the system and it will contact them directly with a one-question survey. Patients who are happy with your care will be sent to the review site of your choice so they can quickly and easily write you the rave you deserve. ReputationStacker has a plan equipped with HIPAA-compliant security specifically designed for healthcare providers.
The Final Diagnosis
Your focus is on treating your patients, not on scrolling through Facebook. But your patients are using Facebook and other review sites to determine whether or not they want you to be their doctor.
Getting a steady stream of positive reviews plays a huge role in your online reputation, so you should be proactive in getting them. An automated system like ReputationStacker does the heavy lifting for you, contacting your patients for you (and getting the happy ones to post online reviews) so you can concentrate on treating them.