Online review sites have a massive impact on the healthcare industry today. According to The Economist, there are over 60 healthcare and physician review websites in the United States alone, and Medicare even considers patient feedback when allocating Medicare funds. Furthermore, in a recent poll published on softwareadvice, “84 percent of patients surveyed consult a reviews website with some frequency to view or post comments and ratings of health care staff.” Today, virtually everyone looks to the Internet for information when making purchase decisions; who to trust as a healthcare provider is a decision which deserves due diligence. A well established and maintained online reputation is a proven way to attract new patients. How can healthcare providers leverage review sites?
It is easy to understand why physicians and healthcare organizations may be hesitant to open their practices to public criticism. The Economist summarizes this concern as follows: “Some doctors are still skeptical, fearing, for example, that patients may judge a hospital on its decor rather than its care.” However, today 88% of customers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations from friends and family members; this trend is expected to continue. Forbes recently published an article about marketing for physicians which states: “Now that patients are flocking to the Internet, doctors who don’t market themselves will be at a serious disadvantage. If your online presence is weak, you will easily be lost among a sea of doctors who advertise heavily online.” Studies show that more reviews are invariably better than fewer, so having a well-established digital footprint is perhaps the most important step to building your patient base.
Some hospitals and doctor’s offices now incentivize feedback for online reviews with raffles or other prizes. Since patients consider the volume and timeliness of reviews when selecting a physician, encouraging a steady stream of new reviews is a good practice for hospitals. A study published on software advice revealed that “only 6 percent of patients leave ‘very negative’ or ‘somewhat negative’ feedback on reviews sites.” Even in the event of a negative review, healthcare organizations should encourage physicians to respond, as over 60% of those polled in a recent study stated that it was important for doctors to reply to reviews.
Build Your Online Brand
A steady stream of reviews from satisfied customers complimented by a few accurate, authoritative articles can ensure customers find the right information when they go looking for information about your organization and physicians. There is a multitude of strategies to build and promote online reputation management for doctors and healthcare providers. Search engines are an incredibly powerful resource for marketing, and healthcare providers can leverage the power of review sites to gain control of their search engine results.
Have a Crisis Management Strategy
The nature of the Internet, unfortunately, affords unethical competitors, disgruntled employees, or unreasonable patients to take to the Internet with unfounded or personally motivated grievances. In many cases, fake and defamatory information can be completely removed from the Internet and search engine results. If you or your practice has been negatively affected by false allegations online, consider reaching out to an online reputation management company to learn more about strategies you can use to recover, build, and protect your online reputation.
Online reviews are gaining trust and popularity in virtually every vertical. Because healthcare is an important and personal decision, patients are increasingly turning to the Internet to find information about medical professionals. With the proper steps, medical professionals can leverage the power of online review sites to showcase the quality of their organization and attract new patients.