9 Essential Steps to Improve Doctor Ratings Online

Stars above "9 Essential Steps to Improve Doctor Ratings Online" text with nurse in the background People usually leave online reviews for one of two reasons: they were either extremely pleased or felt they had a terrible experience. Some people are difficult to please, and negative doctor ratings are, unfortunately, just a part of running a hospital or practice–at least to an extent.

With the right reputation management strategies in place, though, you should be able to stay on top of online doctor reviews and make sure the good outshines the bad. It takes work, and you might not be able to handle it on your own. But following these essential steps should take your reputation to the next level.

Related: Reputation Management for Doctors

#1: Control your name in more locations online

Many practices simply don’t realize this is important. You should own as many online properties with the name of your practice as possible. That means owning the basics like a Facebook and LinkedIn account along with Twitter and YouTube–any properties your office can manage.

Of course, it’s important to have an easy-to-find website optimized for SEO as well, something you may need help with from a digital marketing specialist. For larger practices and hospitals, you can also have separate websites for different doctors in your practice for an increased web presence.

#2: Keep up your social media presence

Owning those various properties on outside sites is only part of the equation. You have to manage them if you want grow your practice or hospital. Post regularly on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram…whatever helps patients to find your brand. Interact with patients, respond to comments, and answer questions to boost your reputation.

A neglected social media account may not be strong enough to counteract a sudden onslaught of negative reviews. The positive interactions can outweigh the negative if you have someone spend time managing these accounts.

#3: Respond to reviews and doctor ratings quickly

We’ve seen patients change their mind about a negative review after hearing back from a doctor or practice…but you have to pick your battles.

If a patient complains about a scheduling issue, for example, you might use Yelp’s business owner features to invite the patient to call your office and work something out. This level of personalized care may prompt the patient to change his mind. However, if a patient issue cannot be resolved, it’s probably best to leave it alone.

Of course, you can’t make everyone happy through an online interaction. That’s why it’s actually more important to respond to positive reviews! People love seeing that their positive review was noticed and appreciated and it only increases the likelihood that others will take the time to leave similar feedback.

#4: Get rid of negative patient reviews (if you can)

Yes, it is possible to get rid of negative doctor ratings on most outside review sites, but only under certain circumstances, like if…

  • The reviewer did not actually visit your practice.
  • The review contains inappropriate language.
  • The contents of the review violate HIPAA.

Even in these cases, taking down a review can be a difficult matter. Yelp tends to side with the reviewer, and it can be difficult to prove defamation unless you have a court jurisdiction against the reviewer.

#5: Identify unhappy patients sooner

It can be pretty difficult to take down a negative review. That’s why it helps to identify patients who may be likely to leave a negative review before they sit down at the computer.

Reputation management is a learning process, but it starts with having the right people on your team. Make sure the front desk staff is trained on everything from answering the phones politely to timely billing practices. 

#6: Feature 4- and 5-star doctor ratings on your site

Help prospective patients learn about your business and see positive doctor ratings directly on your website. You can embed reviews into your website, though we recommend using an automated reputation management system. This way, you can manage reviews internally and reach the right patients at the right time.

#7: Encourage patient reviews (responsibly)

You can encourage patients to leave a positive review on sites like Yelp or Google, but use caution. If you violate the review site’s terms of service, you risk discrediting your business altogether on that site.

Same-day emails are a great way to reach patients after they’ve left the office and have time to think over the positives of their experience. However, if you send the email to a dissatisfied customer, you risk negative reviews you won’t be able to get rid of. It’s probably not realistic to expect office staff to determine which patients left the office happy and which did not, which is why we recommend automating your doctor ratings.

#8: Automate the process

If you plan to reach the right people at the right time, reputation management automation is the way to go. Leading programs (like ours) include features that base review requests off a patient’s level of satisfaction.

In the office, patients are asked to use an internal program to rate the practice and leave comments. Those who give high doctor ratings are then sent an email requesting a review, while those who give negative ratings receive a follow-up email that may ask for further comments or simply offer up an apology (along with a desire to fix the issue).

We say it time and time again: you have to invest in your brand. Automating this process is an investment, but it ensures you reach patients at the right time and meet the changing needs of prospective patients searching online for a reputable practice.

#9: Use reviews to improve your practice over time

You’re going to receive a negative review at some point. You have to avoid the impulse to respond defensively or engage in any online arguments; this can only hurt. Be willing to extend an apology if applicable and find ways to address the issue. This proves that your office is proactive and progressive and may even prompt reviewers to change their tune.

Look for common themes in negative reviews and doctor ratings. If patients tend to complain about slow technology, it might be time for an upgrade. If reviews focus on wait times, you can work on scheduling or even focus on making the waiting room a more pleasant place to be. Your hospital or practice can only maintain positive reviews if it’s able to adjust to the needs of patients!

Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer at Healthcare Success
Stewart Gandolf, MBA, is Chief Executive Officer of Healthcare Success, one of the nation's leading healthcare and digital marketing agencies. Over the past 20 years, Stewart has marketed and consulted for over 1,000 healthcare clients, ranging from practices and hospitals to multi-billion dollar corporations. A frequent speaker, Stewart has shared his expertise at over 200 venues nationwide. As an author and expert resource, Stewart has also written for many leading industry publications, including the 21,000 subscriber Healthcare Success Insight blog. Stewart also co-authored, "Cash-Pay Healthcare: Start, Grow & Perfect Your Cash-Pay Healthcare Business." Stewart began his career with leading advertising agencies, including J. Walter Thompson, where he marketed Fortune 500 clients such as Wells Fargo and Bally's Total Fitness.

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