Which healthcare provider to trust with your family’s health is a big decision, so it’s not surprising that over 75% of patients consider online reviews when looking for a new physician. Studies show that nearly 90% of consumers now trust the reviews of total strangers on the Internet more than the recommendations of their closest friends and family members. The increasing reliance on review websites represents a massive opportunity for healthcare providers to manage their reputations to maintain and grow their patient count. However, nearly every doctor who adopts this strategy will be faced with a negative review at one point or another, and the question is: how should doctors respond to negative reviews?
Acknowledge the Review
The majority of individuals polled in a recent study about medical review sites answered that it is ‘very important’ or ‘moderately important’ for doctors to respond to reviews online. Obviously, when a patient cares enough to take the time to write a review, he or she is interested in having his or her opinion acknowledged. Responding to reviews promptly also demonstrates a commitment to communication, which is important to all patients when considering a physician.
Attempt to Remedy the Situation
Unless the review is fake, which we’ll discuss later, it is often best to reach out to the author of the negative review and examine the situation privately. Direct interaction lowers the chances of miscommunication and affords the patient an opportunity to feel that the physician understands his or her grievances. It is important to remember that all medical information should be kept private and that a public response may be ill-advised in some circumstances.
Apply Useful Feedback
No one enjoys receiving professional criticism, especially if it seems unfounded. However, it is important to realize that every patient brings a different perspective and experience; every appointment is a unique opportunity to provide quality care. Applying patient feedback, whether positive or negative, is a good way of demonstrating that the rapport between physician and patient is paramount to medical professionals and healthcare providers.
Build your Personal Brand
Studies show that more reviews are always better, even if some are negative. An article recently published on thedoctorblog states that “the total number of ratings itself is quite important, as well…The 25 percent of doctors with the most patient reviews received five times more appointments than the bottom 25 percent. In other words, professionals with more ratings are more appealing to patients.” Online reputation management for doctors and physicians is increasingly important. More evidence to consider allows patients to feel they are making a better decision. Negative reviews are more likely in larger data sets, and specific complaints may be irrelevant to new patients.
Removing Fake Reviews
Unfortunately, the architecture of many websites that publish User Generated Content makes them a likely target for fraudulent activity or defamation campaigns. Luckily it is in everyone’s best interest to protect the integrity of information from unfair biases on the Internet, and there are many strategies to remove false and defamatory information completely from review sites.
Today, reviews matter. This trend is expected to continue growing into the foreseeable future, as people rely more and more on the Internet to deliver accurate information. Forbes recently published “As the millennial population is growing and commanding more power over various industries in the market, businesses are seeing changes resulting from the new philosophies these millennials are introducing.” One of these new philosophies is the idea that industries should be more transparent, and online reviews are a means to that end. An inherent, albeit unfortunate, part of online reviews is the occasional negative feedback, but with the right strategy in place, physicians can effectively leverage online reviews, even the negative ones.