By Steven Jacobs
Unless you diligently track this topic closely, what you thought you knew about doctor and hospital reputation management has probably changed. In fact, this is one tech-savvy, computer-centric landscape that is constantly evolving. If you might have skipped a beat—and that’s easy to do—here’s a brief update about change, the importance of online reputation and what it means for business development.
The weighted value of a physician’s professional standing go far beyond a matter of personal pride. The same is true for hospitals, group practices and other providers. It is the collective online story that, in the mind of the public, represents your professional standing, experience and reputation. Fortunately, the majority of online reviews tend to be positive in nature. And much of the online reputation that the public sees can be proactively managed.
Related: Reputation Management for Doctors
The reputation management numbers represent people, and people mean business…
Online reviews and rating sites have the highest public visibility into provider reputation. At least one in three prospective patients “who viewed online sites sought out or avoided physicians based on their ratings.”
- An Internet-based survey of adults published in JAMA also reveals the “retail-like” expectations of buyers. “Patients are increasingly turning to online physician ratings, just as they have sought ratings for other products and services.”
- A study by the Pew Research Center found 30 percent of Internet users looked specifically at provider reviews submitted by patients. The near-constant monitoring is worth the time invested, and each has serious weight.
- On the plus side, Harvard Business Review says good reviews can enhance sales up to 50 percent. Conversely, an unhappy customer will share their negative experience with two-dozen others.
- On average, physician ratings are based on about 2.5 reviews. For business, it means that positive reviews and ratings directly support the purchase decision of new or prospective patients.
- Close to 50 percent of consumers feel that a doctor’s reputation matters. The added significance is that, among local business types, reputation is the most valuable or important criteria.
- The largest sites include Vitals.com, ZocDoc.com, RateMDs.com and Yelp.com. Yelp, in particular, is a present-day digital version of “friends-and-family” recommendations. Significantly, about 80 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
- The MD.com site goes further. In addition to patient reviews, this site offers to schedule appointments, find providers, and sell patients telemedicine video consults. (Thus, this site is slightly competitive.)
- Yelp—a review exchange platform that began mainly about places to eat—has its business ups and downs. While Yelp reviews are important to health care, Yelp growth has slowed significantly.
- Are some search results competitively suppressed? It takes a sharp eye, but industry observers believe that Google, Yelp (and maybe others) have an ongoing wrestling match. The concern is that some search results may not be on a level playing field. Google has its own review stage that it wants to spotlight.
- GoogleMyBusiness is a heavyweight; it helps with Search Engine Optimizations, and it’s growing in popularity. Everyone wants to be a friend of the biggest force in online search…and there’s no doubt that Google is the dominant force. GoogleMyBusiness is free, easy to use, and—being a respected Google product—is prominently positioned and widely seen.
But wait, there’s more—much more…
Internet technology routinely brings fresh new devices to the party. Voice search, voice commands and voice control are relatively new. But they’ve made a big splash as the home assistant devices. These include smart devices like Google Home, Echo Dot, and Amazon’s Alexa devices.
- A recent entry in the voice arena, for example, is the Echo Show, where “now Alexa can show you things.” Online ratings and reviews by voice are faster, simpler and easier than powering up your Bluetooth keyboard. Everyone can see search results and reviews.
- The “brand name” sites are not the only platforms for public comments. Various social media sites—such as Reddit, Quora, StumbleUpon, and dozens of others—are open forums for positive, and sometimes negative, comments.
- GlassDoor is another discussion and reporting site that has made gains in popularity. From a reputation oversight perspective, GlassDoor provides feedback from employees, but prospective customers read it too.
- It’s difficult to watch everything in this big field, but fortunately, Google can help. Set up Google Alerts to monitor new content as it appears on the Internet…monitored by name or keyword. It’s a free time-saving tool.
How to control and direct your online image…
As the business of reputation has grown in importance and in complexity, the challenges of management have also increased. For virtually every facility, hospital and practice, the business of reputation management means having a plan and a system.
- Fish where the fish are swimming. Track where patients are finding reviews and recommendations. Apply your resources where they will have the greatest impact, and big-name sites are big and important for a reason.
- Keep score. Identify where search results are strongest. What sites are the most influential and/or influence SEO?
- Actively encourage patient reviews. Ask patients to use the prominent rating and review sites. Positive patient experiences typically inspire thoughtful and positive comments.
- Negative comments are also a plus. Have a system to respond or act quickly if there’s an issue that needs a reply or a proactive remedy.
- Be your own good resource. Your personal and practice reputation is influenced by content that you create and information that you post. Use your Facebook page, your blog and other social media tools to tell your own professional story.
Reputation Management means business…
The significance of online Reputation Management has risen to a top-tier issue in healthcare marketing. Patients rely on the information that they find online. It forms opinions and attitudes, and it is a significant factor in selecting a provider or making an informed decision.
What’s more, this is one marketing territory that is changing and evolving. It’s one that requires time, attention and resources. Healthcare Reputation Management is a challenging, mission-critical area where we can assist. Connect with us here. Let’s discuss how to leverage patient feedback for a lasting and positive professional reputation.