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5 Ways Online Doctor Reviews Can Help Your Practice

By Stewart Gandolf, Chief Executive Officer

Smiling doctor checking an online five star review on iPad

People can say almost whatever they want about your practice online. It may seem like a difficult task, but working to earn more positive online doctor reviews (and counteract the negative) is worth it--if you hope to grow your practice and keep people coming back time and time again.

Having positive reviews to showcase online is more important (for doctors' offices of all kinds) than ever before. You need a solid strategy for earning positive online doctor reviews, but once you have that in place, you can improve your practice in more ways than one.

Related: 9 Essential Steps to Improve Doctor Ratings Online

1. Improve your practice by focusing on what patients want

The landscape of healthcare is drastically changing. No longer do patients choose a doctor based on their location--they expect a visit to the doctor’s office to be more like a customer service experience. Every patient has a list of priorities they want from a local healthcare professional, and they expect their chosen practice to check off the boxes.

So what do patients want?

We all speculate about what patients want, but in the end, it's better to hear about it directly from the source. Online doctor reviews offer insight into what patients prioritize the most, so you can focus on transforming processes to meet patient expectations.

Has it been a while since you’ve looked at your doctor ratings online? From now on, make an effort to keep a list of things your patients seem to care about most, and start planning to audit processes and improve upon patient complaints.

We’ve seen too many practices make the mistake of dismissing negative reviews as a one-off instead of working towards a better patient experience.

2. Strengthen the patient-physician relationship by responding positively

When you see a negative online review from a patient, what do you do first? Too many practices simply write off that patient and think, "Good riddance." But shouldn't you make an effort to learn from your patients and shift towards a better experience for everyone?

It is no small matter to make a patient feel like experiences matter. Responding to your reviews in a HIPAA-compliant way, without referencing any patient details online, can help strengthen the patient-physician relationship. Prospective patients see that you are committed to improving the patient experience, and you may even win patients back. Here’s how to do it right:

  • Thank the patient for their feedback. Keep it simple. Do not disclose any PHI, including acknowledging that the reviewer is currently, or ever was, a patient.
  • Provide the patient with a way to contact you offline.

  • Respond with a pre-approved message. You and your team can come up with several pre-approved responses that address patient concerns and detail ways you are working to improve a problem.

  • Respond personally whenever possible. Whenever possible, you should attempt to respond personally to resolve a patient’s issues. If there was an error in billing, connect them with the right person to correct the error. If there was a high wait-time, let them know if plans are underway to update systems for faster appointments.

With the right response, people will appreciate that you took the time. Others might notice your quick response to a negative review, and the reviewer may take the time to update their negative review to reflect a positive experience.

3. Boost your rankings in search

A study by Moz found online reviews to be one of the top 7 local search ranking factors in 2017. In other words, reviews can make or break the ranking of your practice in local search results.

There are several ways reviews can boost your presence in Google and other search engine results:

  • Adding reviews is a way to continuously generate fresh content to your website, something the search engines are looking for.
  • Reviews encourage patient interaction with your site.
  • People are more likely to click through to sites with high ratings.

4. Create a great first impression

Studies have shown that 84% of consumers trust online reviews as much as recommendations from friends.

That’s a huge deal. It means patients are willing to believe the positive (or the negative) reviews on your site, and that they enter your practice with a set of expectations.

This can only be a good thing. When your site features mostly positive reviews, patients come into your practice with a positive attitude and outlook. This serves to strengthen the patient-physician relationship before you even interact face-to-face.

5. Build your brand by asking the right patients for reviews (at the right time)

Positive online doctor reviews can help to build up your brand. Locals may start to see you as an authority in your field. You can build up enough positive reviews to counteract the negative reviews you receive on various review sites. But you have to seek out these reviews at the right time.

Asking for online doctor reviews at the right time

The best way to reach the right people at the right time for a positive review is to send out requests for reviews through an automated system.

An automated review system puts control in your hands. Patients first fill out a questionnaire in the office about their experiences, which includes a scoring system with a scale of 1-10. Patients who score your services between 7 and 10 receive a follow-up email requesting a review on your site (and encouraging reviews on sites like Yelp).

Lower scores can trigger an email response as well, but this looks a bit different. A follow-up email can ask a patient what could have been done differently so that you can better serve future patients. This patient may or may not return, but they will be less likely to give your practice a negative online review online when you are in communication.

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