Ajay Prasad is the CEO of GMR Web Team, a full-service healthcare digital marketing agency focused on patient acquisition and retention.
Patients find health care providers in a variety of ways that include insurance lists, referrals from their doctor, referrals from friends and family, and via online searches like Google. No matter how potential patients become aware of a doctor, they are likely to check online reviews before selecting one: According to one survey, 79% of patients consider online reviews before choosing their health care provider.
That same survey shows that 63% of patients read 10 reviews before selecting a provider, and 27% of survey participants deemed reviews 1-2 years old as not relevant, so make sure your reviews are relatively recent.
Health care providers could potentially lose thousands of dollars of revenue every month unless they have good, recent reviews on all review websites that patients visit.
Inaccurate Online Reputations Hurt Health Care Practices
We often find that overall patient satisfaction levels are not accurately reflected online for our new health care clients. Their online reputation is usually underrepresented compared to the actual patient satisfaction that we start monitoring after they sign up for our services.
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A Mayo Clinic study found that doctors with negative online reviews had similar patient satisfaction levels as those with good reviews, which confirms our experience. However, the study found that the doctors with poor reviews lacked in areas other than patient interaction, like front desk, wait time, etc. — typically the reason for low review ratings.
Research also shows that over 90% of consumers trust online reviews. Patients looking for medical services are more likely to choose another provider if they see bad reviews about a practice.
What Might Hurt Your Online Reputation?
Our experience of managing over 1,300 health care providers’ online reputations shows that patients are generally happy with their doctors. As reflected by negative reviews, their complaints are typically about inaccurate billing, unprofessional front desk personnel, long wait times, and a lack of communication between visits. Our clients can typically explain why each negative review might have occurred. However, a prospective patient does not have the background information and judges the physician based on negative reviews.
Practices need to make sure that online reviews represent the provider’s real patient satisfaction. They also need processes to address unpleasant patient experiences from the other factors immediately. We strongly advise our clients to survey patients about their experience after leaving the office and immediately address any negative experience. Paying close attention to patients’ experience converts many unhappy patients into satisfied ones because they can see that the provider cares about them.
How to Create an Accurate Online Reputation
As a health care practice, you’ll want to be proactive in building and maintaining an accurate online representation. Here are some tips to help with that:
Generate more reviews. Getting more patient reviews is an effective way to build online credibility for your health care business and ensures that your online reviews reflect your actual patient satisfaction. Make sure that you’re on the major directories and review sites and you have a team closely monitoring any feedback. Encourage your staff to ask patients to leave a review and explain how it can help your practice grow.
Respond to any negative reviews. When you do get a negative review, you need to make sure you respond back in a timely manner. You cannot control what a patient says, but you can control how you respond. Apologize, clear up any confusion and let the reviewer know that you want to discuss what went wrong.
Survey patients after appointments. Conducting patient satisfaction surveys lets your patients know that you value their opinion and are willing to improve service quality based on their feedback. Be sure to do it immediately after an appointment. At this time, your patient’s experience will be fresh, and they can provide more detailed feedback.
After building an accurate picture of patient experiences, you’ll know what you need to do to improve the quality of the health care you’re offering. Other benefits include:
• Identifying patient care gaps and creating an effective action plan to improve health care quality in your practice.
• Allowing patients to hand any negative feedback directly to you first.
• Better patient engagement. Patients will appreciate that you care about their experience.
Measure patient satisfaction. It’s not enough to just ask questions or read reviews — you’ll also want to rate customer satisfaction levels. Depending on how you structure your patient satisfaction survey, you can obtain scores indicative of patient experience levels. Be sure to incorporate online star ratings in your assessment.
Accurate online representation is a crucial part of building and maintaining a positive reputation on the web. As a result, a healthy online reputation can bring you more business and help increase your profits.
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Author: Ajay Prasad, Forbes Councils Member