Patients trust them, but can doctors control their Internet ratings?
What’s the first thing the vast majority of people do when choosing a doctor? The same thing they do when searching for a good restaurant, a new dry cleaner, or the top hair salon in town: they go online. While years ago online reviews of doctors were few and far between—and even fewer were considered trustworthy—that has changed. More people are posting reviews and ratings of their doctors on the Internet in 2019—and more importantly, people increasingly trust those reviews.
According to a recent survey, 95 percent of U.S. adults—and 97 percent of millennials—believed online ratings and reviews to be reliable, reported MobiHealthNews. And 70 percent of those surveyed said that online ratings and review sites had influenced their choice of doctor. Do you know what patients are saying about you online? And what, if anything, can you do to control online reviews of you and your practice?
Where are patients posting their reviews online?
According to health care marketing company Binary Fountain, which conducted the survey, the “results underscore the significance of online ratings and reviews as online reputation management for physicians becomes ever more important in today’s health care consumer environment. As patients are becoming more vocal about their health care experiences, healthcare organizations need to play a more active role in compiling, reviewing, and responding to patient feedback, if they want to compete in today’s marketplace.”
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With all the review sites out there, how can doctors possibly know where to start? The survey found that:
- 34 percent of patients went to a hospital’s web site first to research a doctor, “good news for providers looking to control their message”
- 29 percent went to Google
- 18 percent started at WebMD, and
- 15 percent went to Healthgrades
Google reviews are an aggregate of reviews across the web, so it’s a good idea to monitor multiple doctor review and ratings sites regularly.
According to the American Journal of Managed Care, in 2017 there were more than 400 web sites dedicated to patients’ feedback on their experiences in doctors’ offices. Health care-specific review sites like Zocdoc were popular, especially with younger patients, but general rating sites like Yelp and Angie’s List were also common places to review doctors.
Do you really have to keep tabs on all these sites? It’s a good idea, according to medical practice software company PatientPop, since Google reviews are an aggregate of reviews across the web and often the first thing patients see when they search for your practice. For more on this, PatientPop offers a comprehensive guide for health care providers looking to create a Google My Business listing and enhance their local search engine optimization (SEO). Setting up a Google Alert so that you receive an email whenever your name or practice name is mentioned online is a simple first step. For help with setting this up, reach out to your Rendia Customer Success Manager.
3 steps to better online reviews
Besides optimizing your info on Google, what can you do to ensure patients searching online see your practice in the best light?
1. Evaluate the negative. First, don’t get discouraged by bad reviews. It’s a sad fact of human nature that people are more likely to share negative experiences than positive ones. Address this by carefully evaluating less-than-stellar reviews and deciding if a response is warranted. Sometimes people just want to be heard and acknowledged. A simple reply can go a long way, such as “Thank you for your feedback. We’re committed to a better patient experience and are trying to improve wait times.”
For more on this topic, see Managing Negative Feedback Online: Five Tips
2. Accentuate the positive. Also make sure you’re doing your part to proactively collect and share positive patient feedback. In your waiting room, use video to ask satisfied patients to like you on Facebook, rate you on Yelp, or fill out a patient satisfaction survey. Seek out patients who give your practice high marks and ask them if they’d be willing to give you a testimonial. As the previously mentioned survey found, more than a third of patients go directly to a provider’s website to evaluate a doctor. Highlight your positive reviews and testimonials right on your home page.
For more on this topic, see How to Capture Compelling Patient Testimonials
Doctors can influence online reviews more than they might think, by prioritizing things like good service and high-quality patient education.
3. Control what you can. While it may feel like online ratings are out of your hands, you can actually influence them more than you might think. A Mayo Clinic study found that negative patient reviews were less likely to reflect a doctor’s skills and more likely to mention other factors like front desk staff, appointment access, billing, and parking. Training your staff to deliver better service is well within your control. Offering online appointment scheduling and billing, through your patient portal or an app, could be a simple and effective way to improve patient satisfaction and reviews. Wait times frustrated 43 percent of survey respondents and are commonly mentioned in online reviews, reported MobiHealthNews. If this is the case in your practice, see 3 Missed Opportunities in Your Waiting Room.
The patient education factor
Lastly, don’t overlook the power of patient education to improve patients’ experience and feedback. The Binary Fountain survey also found that 47 percent of patients felt that an important quality in a doctor was “an ability to answer all my questions.”
For this reason, it’s crucial to provide top-notch patient education materials. Offer videos that patients can watch before their appointment to get up to speed on basic terminology and ask specific questions about their condition or treatment. Patient education videos also have the benefit of being easily understood by a wide range of patients, and can be easily accessed and shared with family members and caregivers.
Online doctor reviews aren’t going anywhere. Make sure you’re providing the best patient experience possible and being an active participant in managing your online reputation.