The Importance of Online Reputation for Family Doctors
While a doctor’s service and interaction with their clients will happen almost entirely in-person, their online reputation is still critically important when it comes to attracting new patients and keeping old ones engaged. More than ever, people are trusting online reviews as their go-to when it comes to trusting businesses. If your online reputation is lacking, you will likely be losing out on some valuable business. Even medical practices who have gotten a steady stream of business thanks to in-network care can still see negative effects from having a less-than-stellar online reputation. In a recent survey done by Doctors.com, they found that approximately 80 percent of respondents have used the internet for healthcare-related searches, and that 63 percent will choose one provider over another based on their online reputation. That means that your online reputation is enough to influence your potential future patients’ decisions, and though many doctors get their new patients through network referrals, those patients are not likely to stick with you if your reviews are negative. In fact, in a 2016 survey, 48 percent of respondents said that they would choose to go out of network in order to see a provider that had better reviews than an in-network provider. All that being said, your online reputation matters now more than ever. If you have never taken the time to check on where your reputation currently stands, it can seem like a daunting task, but it is important to take that leap and take control of how your business is seen by your online audience.
We have compiled a list of our top five tips for managing your online reputation as a family doctor.
Find out where your reputation stands
To begin your journey towards a stellar reputation, start by finding out where your business currently stands. Claim your business online; it’s free, easy, and there’s no better way to get your finger on the pulse of what people are saying about you. Claiming your business can help to build trust in the eyes of your potential consumers by legitimizing your business, showing your customers that your business is real, and by giving you the power to make sure that basic information. like your phone number, address, and business name, is updated and correct. This can be a crucial first step in forming trust with your potential customers. If they google your business and call the phone number that is listed, but that number is disconnected or incorrect, they are likely going to think that your business is either closed or unreliable, and both of those options are no good for business, especially for a family doctor, where reliability tends to be one of the traits people value the most. Claiming your profiles can also help to boost your SEO (search engine optimization) rankings by providing details about your company and providing links back to your website and social media profiles. By having links from trusted sites point back to your website, you ultimately have a better chance of gaining a higher ranking in the search results. Another added benefit of claiming your profiles is that you can easily respond to your reviews. We highly recommend responding to all reviews, positive and negative, because doing so shows your audience that you are present and that care about what they have to say.
Ask for reviews and feedback
The long and short of it is businesses need reviews in order to thrive. While that is true regardless of industry, that is especially important for doctors. Many people feel nervous about going to the doctor, and seeing positive, or negative, reviews about your practice can make or break a person’s decision to become your patient. Some business owners don’t feel good about asking for reviews, but there is absolutely no shame in doing so, especially when you share with your customers how valuable their feedback is. Most people won’t write a review on their own, but according to a 2016 survey, 70 percent of customers said that if they were asked to leave a review for a business, they would. So, at the end of a visit, when a patient is thanking you for quick and compassionate care, or telling you how great your staff is or how welcoming your waiting room is, it is perfectly acceptable to tell them that the best way they can thank you is by leaving a review online. When asking for a review, you want to shy away from pushing or asking for a five-star review. It’s important to hear about your patients’ genuine experiences, so we recommend asking every patient for their feedback, and wording your request in that way. While asking for feedback in-person is a great start, there are a few other ways to kindly remind or prompt your patients to give you their feedback. One of those ways is through an email follow-up, where you can even go so far as to link your preferred review sites. Another great way to ask for feedback is through hand-written notes! This could be in the form of a thank-you note, a seasonal or holiday greeting, or a birthday card. People appreciate the time and effort it takes to write and send a letter, and even if they don’t end up writing a review, they will be more likely to refer you to a family member or friend and remember your practice when it comes time for them to get medical services.
Monitor and respond to your reviews
Once the reviews start pouring in, it’s important for you to be proactive about responding to them. Doing so boosts your credibility and likeability in the eyes of your audience. When you get a positive review, make sure to thank that patient for taking the time to leave you some feedback. When a negative review comes in, don’t panic. Though it may feel like a personal attack, people who leave negative reviews are usually feeling pretty bad, and that likely stems from feeling unheard, disregarded, or somehow not taken care of. It’s important to show your audience that you are receptive to all forms of feedback, and that you value the opportunity to improve your business or fix a bad situation. Simply responding to reviews is enough to show your audience that there is someone real on the other side of the screen who is paying attention to them. In a previous article, we outlined some of the best ways to handle your negative reviews. It is important to keep in mind that however you choose to respond and engage with your online audience, you must stay in compliance with HIPAA.
Learn how to navigate HIPAA when responding to your reviews
In the healthcare industry, it is important to remember that you have HIPAA to contend with, and that can be tricky land to navigate when it comes to responding to reviews online.
If you are worried about violating HIPAA when responding to your business’ online reviews, we suggest starting out by having a template you can draw from for both positive and negative reviews. First, you need to know what you can and can’t say, and then, you need to show your clients that you genuinely care about their experience, whether that experience was positive or negative. Even in the case of a positive review, it is important that you cannot confirm or give details about anyone’s time as a patient.
Keeping in mind that you need to avoid posting any information that identifies or confirms someone as a patient, saying something like, “I am sorry you had to wait longer than anticipated before being seen,” is in violation of HIPAA, as is, “I’m so glad you loved your experience with Dr. Mendoza!” Both of these phrases confirm that the person who left the review did, in fact, visit your practice as a patient.
When it comes to responding to a negative review, you could try something more like this:
“We strive to provide our patients with the best quality care and experience, and your feedback could help us improve. Please call our office at xxx-xxx-xxxx, and we will make the time to personally address any concerns.”
With this, you have shown a personal investment in the experience of your patients; you have highlighted a value that you hope to uphold or have shown your patients the way you hope to be known or are otherwise known; you have shown that you value feedback and are open to growth; you have shown future clients that you value online reviews, and you have not violated any of HIPAA’s privacy laws!
While not necessary, you could also feel free to mention HIPAA in your response. This might serve as a reminder to the reviewer that their concerns will not be solved or addressed further online, prompting them to take the conversation offline, as requested. If you wanted to mention HIPAA, you could add to your response:
“Due to HIPAA privacy laws, we cannot address your concerns publically, but we do want to connect with you and look forward to hearing from you.”
Inviting a patient to address their concerns offline shows them that you value them and their feedback. Oftentimes, when someone has negative feedback, their bad experience comes from a place of not feeling heard or valued. Use this opportunity to show them that this is not the case. Your actions could result in the person removing the negative review, updating it, or even becoming a loyal patient
Positive reviews deserve a little attention, too. A quick, HIPAA-safe response to a positive review shows your patients that you are paying attention to their feedback and care about them and their experience. One response could look like:
“Thank you for this feedback. We always strive to deliver the best in quality care, and we love to hear about positive experiences.”
“We value this positive feedback, and love to know when we’re doing something right. We try to always uphold our commitment to offering great value and excellent service. Thank you!”
Of course, you don’t want to copy and paste the same exact response to every single review and comment you receive, but hopefully, these templates can give you a place to start, so that you can feel confident and comfortable navigating the restrictions of HIPAA online. Remember to always be polite and professional, and to set an appropriate tone to any response you give.
Maintain a regular social media presence
Keeping an updated and interesting presence on social media is an effective way to keep in touch with your audience, earn some organic search traffic, and even give you some credibility as an expert in your field. Social media doesn’t have to be all selfies and hashtags; it can be a valuable way to show off what’s new and upcoming in your practice, highlight your exceptional staff, or even be a place where you publish articles specific to your industry. Especially in the medical field, you can show your patients that you are keeping up with the current trends and studies in the world of health and medicine, which is really important for many patients’ peace of mind! By doing this, you are not only providing useful and engaging content, but you are also establishing yourself as a leader in the industry. Maintaining a regular social media presence keeps you fresh in the eyes of your patients and gives them some familiarity with you and your practice. This might give them some extra incentive to leave you some positive feedback or share your profile with others. You can also lean into the fun side of social media and host giveaways, post silly photos, or share a bit about the behind-the-scenes life of your employees. This kind of post humanizes your practice and shows that you are fun and engaging, which can help to ease the nerves of patients who might be nervous about visits to the doctor.
We hope that these tips have been helpful to you and your business. If you are feeling ready to tackle your online reputation, we recommend getting started by claiming your business on Top Rated Local today!