If you’d rather ignore what people are saying about you and your practice on review and ranking websites, from Yelp to Healthgrades, you might not realize you’re losing business.
It’s no longer a question of if potential patients will go online to check your reviews and rankings before booking an appointment. They will. Nearly 85% of patients evaluate physicians using online reviews at least occasionally. And most turn to the online feedback as their first step in finding a new provider, according to a recent survey by software buyer resource Software Advice.
Andrew Rainey, executive vice president of strategy and corporate development at Binary Fountain, a company that provides patient feedback management solutions, says Binary Fountain is seeing an increasing volume of health care-specific online reviews and ratings.
“… you see a lot of the other industries already adopting and managing their online reputation and presence, with the reviews and ratings in mind. Health care is now following suit,” Rainey tells Cosmetic Surgery Times. “There are a couple of stats … that we’ve seen in the market. [One is] about 84% of patients trust an online review as much as a personal recommendation. That’s a major shift, where it used to always be a personal recommendation or maybe it was a recommendation of a primary care physician, for example, as to where to go.”
With an estimated 60 review websites focused on health care in the U.S., according to Software Advice, there’s plenty of feedback out there.
NEXT: Two Key Misperceptions
Two Key Misperceptions
Online review and rating sites aren’t online complaint departments, according to Rainey.
In its survey of more than 1,400 U.S. patients, Software Advice found that while many think people leave reviews and ratings primarily after having bad experiences, only six% in this survey indicated they leave negative reviews. That’s compared to 50% who wrote positive or at least somewhat positive reviews.
Another potential misperception about online ratings and reviews is that doctors and practices have no control over what’s in them. They do, according to Rainey. And it’s important to the bottom line that they monitor and manage their reviews.
There are tools (Binary Fountain has such a program) that search and find reviews on a physician, practice and facility. Having such a program can take the guesswork and time-consuming monitoring out of the equation for practices. Binary Fountain’s tool delivers all patient and potential patient feedback to one location, so practices can respond when needed.
NEXT: Rules of Engagement
Rules of Engagement
Why respond? According to the Software Advice survey a lack of response to reviews by physicians and their practices is bad practice. Sixty percent of patients surveyed say it’s moderately or very important that doctors respond to online reviews.
If someone had a positive experience, Rainey says, insert yourself as part of that conversation to reinforce the good feedback.
“For negative experiences, you want to have a public response but still take that conversation off-line,” he says.
The public response guides the patient to a privacy-protected conversation offline, but shows a practice’s concern and willingness to be transparent. Sometimes, it’s marketing teams that respond. In the best case scenario, people who are satisfied with the followup will write subsequent, more positive reviews for all to see.
Rainey points out, however, that responding to every single comment isn’t necessary.
“What we’ve seen is that when we’re looking at social networking sites, Facebook or Twitter, the patient really expects to be responded to in somewhat of a timely manner — so anywhere between 24 and 48 hours. When you look at the review and rating sites, the patient doesn’t necessarily expect to have a response,” Rainey says.
While it may be tempting and even desirable, removing comments isn’t part of the inherent transparency of online ratings and reviews.
“We don’t do that. That’s just welcome to the world of social media. It comes down to how can you influence new reviews and ratings that are being published?” he says.
Practices might help drive positive reviews by asking patients and handing out cards in the office. Another option is to engage patients with an email campaign, asking them to rate their experiences. Still other ways are to post star ratings and opportunities to review on a practice’s website. Practices can validate feedback before posting it but shouldn’t pick only the positive comments because it diminishes credibility. Reviews and ratings posted on physicians’ websites or profile pages help to drive website to higher positions on Google searches, Rainey says.
NEXT: Making Improvements
It’s not just a matter of monitoring and engaging, but it’s also important to learn and improve based on data generated from online comments.
“For us it’s much more than, ‘Hey here’s your new four-star rating on Yelp.’ I think more understanding can happen from the comments being published,” he says.
For example, if a patient at a plastic surgery practice awards that practice a four-star rating on Yelp but mentions after a string of positive attributes that the front-desk person was rude, the practice could monitor the good and bad to determine if these are isolated incidents or trends. Analyzing the feedback can help practices better understand what they’re doing well and what might need attention.
“So, our focus has not been solely on online reputation and online presence — of course, that’s a cornerstone — but the underlying denominator here is this is all about the patient experience and how do you improve the patient experience?” Rainey says.