Do you know what patients are saying about your healthcare organization online? If not, it’s time to find out. Neglecting your Online Reputation costs you new visits, admissions or more walk-ins.
In fact, 80 percent of Americans read online reviews before they choose a new doctor, according to Software Advice.
Online reviews have reshaped how patients find healthcare providers, so it’s critical to understand how positive reviews attract potential patients, how negative ones drive them away, and what you can do to turn satisfied patients into online advocates.
This guide explains the fundamentals of Online Reputation Management, to help you:
- Earn more positive reviews
- Raise your search ranking
- Improve the patient experience
Let’s get started…
“80 percent of Americans read online reviews before they choose a new doctor.”
~ Software Advice
Chapter 1: Want Better Reviews? Just Ask — the Right Way
Positive online reviews contribute significantly to a healthcare practice, clinic or hospital’s reputation and revenue. The Harvard Business Review, for instance, reports that one additional star in an average online rating generates a 5- to 9-percent in revenue.
If your healthcare organization or one of its locations has only a handful of reviews, or the reviews aren’t positive, then you’ve lost a countless number of potential patients. In fact, 94 percent of healthcare seekers who read online reviews say they’re more likely to choose one doctor over another based on positive reviews, according to Softwareadvice.com.
To create a balanced view of sentiment, you must ask patients for feedback consistently. Here are five tips to launch a review requesting system:
TIP 1: Target All of Your Customers
Ask them immediately after a visit, or send a review request email. Simple, graphical templates deliver high response rates.
TIP 2: Ask for an Honest Account
Let patients provide their honest opinion. Don’t try to coax or manipulate them into providing a review that’s counter to their actual patient experience. Never compensate anyone — patients or employees — for positive reviews. Show them you value their feedback — good or bad — and will use it to improve service quality and patient support.
TIP 3: Never Spam
Timing is everything. If you send too many emails requesting a review, you risk irritating your loyal patients. To get a good response, send occasional and brief email messages that politely request an honest review, and leave it at that.
TIP 4: Roll Out Positive Reviews Over Time
If too many positive reviews show up all at once, you risk losing a potential patient’s trust before they even have a chance to schedule an appointment. Time the posting of the requests carefully and regularly.
TIP 5: Showcase Positive Reviews on Your Website and Social Media
Once you notice an up tick in positive reviews, use those reviews to attract more patients. Syndicate them on your social media channels — such as Facebook — and stream them on your website.
Syndicating your endorsements will encourage other patients to submit feedback as well, and will earn you a position as a trusted healthcare provider.
If you receive negative reviews, don’t try to remove them. Instead, focus on creating more positive patient experiences and continue your outreach to all patients — the majority who might not have thought to review you — perpetuating a cycle of positive reviews to share.
Chapter 2: Improve Your Online Reputation to Boost Your SEO
When you search for your healthcare organization’s name on Google, how far do you have to scroll before you see your website? If you’re not on the first page of search results, you might as well be invisible. Discoverability is a powerful component of revenue building, and online reputation plays a big part in how high your organization ranks in search.
Here’s how to elevate online ratings and search rankings:
TIP 1: Rev Up Review Volume
Healthcare organizations with low review volume don’t rank very high. Recent research shows that page rankings are directly driven by the quality and quantity of reviews. A location’s first 10 reviews can move it from page two to page one, and 50 reviews deliver a 266-percent increase in click rate.
To boost your rankings and reviews, request reviews from your patient base and ask them to post them on specialty sites that are relevant to the healthcare industry.
For example, try to build your online reviews on sites such as Healthgrades, RateMDs and Vitals. Research all the specialty sites that generate reviews in the location or locations where you operate, and make them part of your program.
Research the specialty sites that generate reviews in your industry, and make them part of your program.
TIP 2: Raise Your Star Ratings
To improve your star ratings, work on generating more positive reviews on Google. In fact, Google requires that you have at least five reviews before they’ll show a star rating for your business, according to WebpageFX. Always include a link to your Google+ page in your review requests.
TIP 3: Manage Your Business Listings
One easy and effective way to boost your organization’s online presence is to secure accurate business listings. If you see listings that have already been generated on sites such as Healthgrades and Google Places, make it a point to claim and complete your listing by including up-to-date info on your business name, address, local phone number (not an 800 number), website, hours of operation and photos — for each location.
Google prioritizes companies that maintain consistent and precise location information across multiple listings sites, so be sure to audit your listings regularly.
“Google requires that you have at least five reviews before they’ll show a star rating for your organization.”
Chapter 3: Improve the Patient Experience
When your organization has negative reviews, make sure they’re not ignored. Coach your marketing team and office managers to use that feedback to improve the patient experience, outcomes and business in general.
Here’s how you can use negative online feedback to help drive operational improvements:
STEP 1: Analyze Sentiment
Online reviews are the best way to gain valuable data about what’s working for patients and what isn’t. Reviews can reveal recurring issues that locations can promptly address. Routinely and systematically monitoring review sites eliminates a major patient experience blind spot.
By using thematic analysis tools, you can spot recurring issues in negative reviews, such as long wait times or unfriendly staff, and solve those problems quickly.
Once you’ve analyzed this data, respond to both old and new negative reviews, acknowledge the issues and let the reviewers know that their feedback is an essential part of your plan to improve.
You can impress potential patients and motivate unsatisfied ones to upgrade their reviews by demonstrating that you care about their experience and are willing to publicly address ways to improve it.
STEP 2: Improve the Quality of Care
Patient feedback is the most powerful tool your locations can use to make better business decisions. For example, you may decide to address long wait times by adding staff during peak periods, providing more training to staff or making organizational changes. Solid sentiment analysis tools help office managers ensure they’re making the right decisions.
STEP 3: Close the Gap
Create a feedback loop that allows you to close the gap between online reputation and the quality of patient experience your staff is trained to provide.
Effective Online Reputation Management means monitoring review sites, responding to reviewers if necessary, recording feedback and coming up with actionable plans to maintain high standards at each location. Without a continuous feedback loop, an organization’s negative online reputation will drive its business results into a death spiral.
But improving quality of service and operations delivers better reviews, more traffic, more patients and, ultimately, an increase in revenue — a virtuous cycle that pays real dividends.
When your locations notice negative reviews, make sure they’re not ignored.
Chapter 4: Build Advocacy and Drive Revenue
When locations’ online reputations are well-managed, the positive reviewers they’ve accumulated become fans and followers on social channels and are now full-throated local advocates.
Once your locations have generated a firm following, here’s how they can use social media to turn their fans into brand ambassadors:
STEP 1: Maintain Consistency
Just like business listings, it’s crucial to keep your company’s key information — address, phone number, etc. — updated on social channels, too. Out-of-date phone numbers and addresses cost your locations customers and potential brand ambassadors. Fans can’t promote a company they can’t find.
STEP 2: Target Your Ad Spend
Advertise where your advocates spend most of their time online Facebook. Facebook Advertising lets you “boost” your posts, allowing you to serve targeted content to your fans and their friends. Develop a Facebook Advertising strategy that enables you to promote positive reviews, drive traffic to your website and brick-and-mortar locations, increase awareness, foster engagement and create a sense of community among advocates. As for the negative reviews and reactions, the same rules mentioned earlier still apply — respond by authentically acknowledging concerns and improving operations wherever necessary.
STEP 3: Engage Your Community
Now that you have a pool of positive reviewers, fans and followers, engage them! Keep the momentum going by cross-promoting your review content throughout your social channels. Encourage social sharing by providing buttons and social engagement widgets. You might even get a few more shares, likes and retweets by using the mention feature to engage your biggest fans.
It’s Time to Get Started!
A strong Online Reputation Management program doesn’t have to happen all at once. Identify one or two of the steps suggested here to take immediately — and use this guide to sketch out your longterm roadmap for success.
Consistent focus over time will help your marketing team and practice office managers take full ownership of their online reputation — sharpening their focus on driving better service, more positive reviews, higher search rankings and better business results.