How and Where Doctors Should Focus on Reputation Management
All doctors understand how reputation impacts their practice. From keeping patients to attracting new ones, reputation management has always been crucial. Today, however, the internet has significantly up-ended traditional norms of doctor-patient engagement, introduced comparison healthcare shopping to the public, and put a whole new emphasis on both peer and patient reviews.
There’s no turning back the clock. But the internet tools that empower patients can do the same for physician reputation management. It’s just a matter of knowing how to use them. Whether you want to grow your practice or simply maintain its size, here are a few things all doctors should understand about the impact of online activity on their professional reputations; courtesy of Invigo Media.
Understanding the Importance of Reputation Management in Our Online World
Whether you call it reputation management or reputation marketing, here’s what you need to know.
The software review and research site SoftwareAdvice conducted a survey in 2016 that showed 84% of patients surveyed would respond to online reviews regarding the evaluation of doctors. 47% of those respondents stated that they would choose an out-of-network doctor who had comparable qualifications if they had better reviews than one that was in the patients’ networks.
The importance of online reviews by patients is only increasing. This means that doctors must be proactive when it comes to online reputation management. So how do you approach the nuances involved in the how’s, why’s, and where’s of online patient reviews? Once again, some essential takeaways found in the SoftwareAdvice’s study can shed quite a bit of light on the subject.
Why, When, and How Patients Utilize Online Reviews
The most critical point in which patients use online reviews is early in a physician search. 77% of the survey respondents stated that physician review sites were among the first places they looked when it came time look for a new doctor.
However, these reviews also played an important role when it came to staying with a physician. These two elements alone illustrate very clearly the importance of reputation management. But these two basic elements branch out into many other crucial review metrics.
Not surprisingly, when it comes to the doctor’s personal reputation, quality of care rates highest in importance at 28%.
But following close on this metric’s heels is over-all review ratings from other patients at 26%. Patient experience ties this at 26%, and the physician’s background follows closely with 21%.
The impact a medical office’s administrative side has on reputation management should be taken every bit as seriously by your practice, as well. The behavior of staff ranked high in importance at 32%. Following that comes the ease of appointment setting at 22%. Billing and payment issues came in at 18% while wait times ranked 16% in importance to respondents.
The First Step in Reputation Management
It may seem obvious to you, but many physicians -for many reasons- don’t take the first critical step in reputation management: taking the online reviews seriously. There are any number of reasons why; from time management to the simple human tendency of hoping a problem will fade away on its own.
But in our ever-on, ever-accessible, ever-connected world, not proactively addressing patient reviews can have a serious impact on a practice’s growth and bottom line. Today, reputation marketing is an investment in your office’s ultimate direction and, possibly, even its survival. So, what are some of the counter measures you can take?
Address the reviews as soon as you become aware of them.
You want to understand what provoked the negative ones and inspired the positive ones. To address these issues you may need to invest in professional front office training. If your practice uses an IVR (interactive voice response) system, ensure that it is regularly updated and optimized.
Making sure your office has a high-quality website that is informative, easy to navigate, and optimized to attract new patients also affects patient satisfaction. Used properly, all of these modern medical practice tools can result in happier, more satisfied patients and be highly effective in reputation marketing.
Responding to Online Reviews
Part of reputation management means keeping current with all the major physician search and review platforms. These sites do change and evolve over the course of time, but some of the most current today are:
60% of the people who responded to SoftwareAdvice’s survey stated that it’s important for physicians to respond to negative reviews. When doing so, however, it is imperative that your manner be HIPAA compliant. Keep in mind that even if the reviewer publicly shares information protected by HIPAA, you must not repeat it or expand upon it.
With that in mind, a doctor can swiftly address issues brought up in a poor review and better mitigate the escalating effects that can branch from a single negative comment. In fact, acting in a proactive manner can often turn it to your practice’s favor.
All of the above has to do with reviews that are negative but honest on the patient’s part. But can mindful reputation management combat reviews that are blatantly false and malicious? Let’s explore that next.
How Reputation Management Can Push Back at False and Malicious Reviews
Like it or not, reputation management has become essential for every doctor and medical practice in today’s ever-connected world. That’s because your professional reputation is now and forever linked to today’s social web. When new patients set their fingers to the keyboard, search engines like Bing, Yahoo and Google become your practice’s greatest ally or worst enemy.
For all the strides that have been made, the old analogy that compares the internet to the wild west remains relevant. Every day, all over the world, literally hundreds of thousands of dollars are prevented from passing through the doors of medical practices because of false, erroneous, or misleading reviews.
Often, an online patient review isn’t even written by an actual patient.
Competitors, disgruntled ex-employees, or past clients with an ax to grind have all been known to masquerade as patients in order to fabricate a damning review. How do they get away with it? Simply because most review sites don’t bother to set up verification gates that can prevent fake negative reviews…or fake positive ones, for that matter, that benefit your competitor.
The cumulative effects of a single “review troll” can lay waste to a doctor’s online reputation, significantly impacting your practice’s bottom line. Potential new patients are lost. Referrals that might have been made in your favor evaporate.
Even cocktail hour at a medical conference can become strained and awkward. All because you and your practice have become the target of a malicious person with a hidden agenda.
But even here, active reputation management can successfully push back.
Even when you suspect that a scathing review is the work of a malicious person with a self-serving agenda, your reply should be measured, civil, and -naturally HIPPA compliant. You want to keep in mind that you’re not communicating only with the writer of the review. Dozens, hundreds, even thousands of others using the review site are watching as the drama unfolds.
There will be cases in which your timely response is all it takes to defuse the situation, even though the reviewer is not really a patient. But many times, the war against you will continue to be waged. Indeed, the malicious reviewer will often double down.
How can reputation management ward off such a deliberate attack?
When a civil, professional response doesn’t do the trick, there are ways to have a negative review removed. To have this done, a plausible argument must be presented to the review site in question.
For example, Google has a system set up in which you can argue for the removal of a hostile review. It can be a lengthy process that may require legal counsel representing you or your practice. But in many cases, a negative review deemed malicious and false by the review site will be removed.
Another technique used in reputation management is to take advantage of search engine optimization techniques (SEO).
Malicious reviews can be buried through these methods, exiling the hostile review to the Google equivalent of “the back of beyond.” A hateful post can be relegated to page 3, 4, 5, or beyond. Why would this be an effective reputation management technique? Consider this: when was the last time you took your own web searches past page 2?
One of the primary ways this technique is done is by increasing your numbers of positive reviews. This method can help ensure that potential new patients doing a physician search will see pages 1 and 2 of a search engine like Google, Edge, or Bing filled with a wide array of favorable, supportive results from people who are authentic patients of yours.
The more positive comments there are, the more deeply the malicious review will be pushed into the no man’s land of those search pages.
How To Make Physician Listing Sites Work in Favor of Reputation Management
There are many designated listing sites that post information about physicians and medical practices. These can be a bit of a moving target, as one can become more popular and heavily trafficked over another as time passes. For example, HealthGrades.com and Vitals.com are currently heavily visited.
But keeping up with listing sites is a critical element in reputation management. They should be monitored on a regular basis.
Part of that monitoring entails making sure your practice’s information on these sites are always up-to-date.
The sites require, at the very least, basic information which they call citations. Citations may be as simple as name, address and phone number. They can go on to include specialties, board certifications, education, and more. Obviously, the more complete your citations, the more likely a potential new patient will consider your practice.
Regardless of how extensive your citations are on these sites, however, the info should be current, correct, and uniformly the same across all the sites that list your practice’s information.
Why is having your information on these listing sites so important in reputation management?
Hundreds of millions of potential new patients search these listing sites every day. If you want your practice to be discovered, your info must be up-to-date and error free. These listing sites serve as your practice’s first best impression. If information is outdated -or you haven’t made the most of displaying your credentials, certifications, and specialties- you will be summarily dismissed at best.
At worst, you may even receive a negative review from someone who thinks your lack of information is suspicious.
Why Reputation Management Should Include Shepherding Your Patients’ Reviews…Even the Positive Ones
It may seem to make perfect sense to give your patients free reign with their comments or in choosing whatever review site they prefer. But such a model can be more detrimental to reputation management than shepherding patients’ comments and site choices.
A shining review may get buried so deeply through a low value site that it won’t be picked up by most search engines. So reputation management includes making sure that the review sites that you shepherd your patients to have the best search engine value and focus.
A process must be in place to proactively guide people to the most effective review sites.
You’ll find that most people appreciate guidance on where to post a review, as well as what your practice is looking for in a review. This is not to say they want you to instruct them on what to write. Rather, they appreciate receiving guidance regarding what you would like them to focus on.
Why You May Want to Consider a Reputation Management Company
As you can no doubt see, effective and proactive reputation management is labor intensive and has a lot of moving parts. Most medical practices don’t have the time and manpower to make sure reputation management (and reputation marketing, for that matter) works at optimum levels.
But when reputation management is a well-oiled machine, the positive impact it has on a practice’s growth can be significant. A quality reputation management company will have a full complement of specialists that can tailor management to your office’s specific needs.
These companies can monitor physician listing sites, patient reviews across many search engines and review sites, manage your office’s website. A crucial part of the job is to keep your practice informed about their findings in a timely manner that allows quick response.
Today’s reputation management agencies oversee each medical practice’s individual situation. Algorithms designed by the best agencies tailor a course of action that specifically targets your needs. This means that reputation marketing through an agency includes reputation repair through the removal of erroneous reviews from the search engine results in addition to providing ongoing monitoring.
Reputation management has always been crucial for growing a physician’s practice. But never has it been as important as it is in the age of the internet. Physician search and review sites have significantly up-ended the traditional norms of doctor-patient engagement.
Today, patients have more at their disposal than ever to help them determine which doctors are best for them and their families. The same internet tools that empower patients can do the same for your practice. It’s just a matter of understanding how to manage them.
Left untended by a physician, this model can spell disaster. But when proper reputation management is employed, the results can be a thriving, growing medical practice.