Online Reviews—A Powerful Medical Practice Marketing Tool
Physicians are building strong reputations on the Web, and so can your business.
In years past, recommendations for local businesses were exchanged in-person between friends and neighbors. Not much has changed in terms of word-of-mouth, except today, consumers can virtually share recommendations with hundreds, if not thousands, of online users in a matter of seconds with just the click of a mouse.
According to a recent study by Local Consumer Review Survey, approximately 72% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Online reviews are widely trusted by Internet users—and that level of trust is always increasing.
These rising numbers are no different in the healthcare world where a satisfied patient has always been a medical practice’s best ambassador. Now patients can visit popular review sites, such as Yelp, Google and Angie’s List to research patients’ opinions about a physician before making an appointment with the practice. People trust the recommendations of others more than any other marketing tactic out there, especially when it concerns their health. A good referral can sway a person to contact a physician for an appointment, but a few negative comments may be the deciding factor that influences a potential patient to visit the practice down the street.
So, what’s a medical practice to do in order to prevent its reputation from being damaged online?
Pay attention to what patients are saying
At the very least, physicians should be actively monitoring what people are saying about their practice online. This can be as simple as performing daily searches for the practice or the doctor’s name and sifting through the search results for new reviews. Or, a much easier way to identify reviews is to sign up for a service that will send alerts to the doctor’s email whenever new key phrases or words are uncovered about the practice online.
Use reviews to your advantage
Online reviews can greatly benefit a medical practice when the comments left are positive. Rather than trying to avoid reviews altogether, doctors should be proactive about asking their patients to review their practice online. Patients pleased with their doctor’s care will be happy to provide feedback. Over time, the practice will have acquired enough positive comments to conceal the handful of negative that will inevitably surface from time to time.
Manage negative reviews
Even the best physicians can’t possibly prevent negative reviews from occasionally popping up on the Web. When this happens, doctors should first recognize that their reputation isn’t ruined. The doctor should assess the context of the review, and then make a decision as to how they want to address the peeved patient. In most cases, simply dismissing the comment altogether and allowing positive reviews to minimize its impact is the best way to handle a sour review. A bad review is also a great opportunity for a practice to learn from its mistakes and improve upon its patient care and overall in-office service.
Bottom line: Online reviews impact all types of businesses beyond the local physician. Major online directories and review sites give consumers the power to research, rant and rave about the services or products they seek, and that means your business will be impacted by what other people are saying about you online. Without a strategy in place to encourage and manage reviews, your online reputation could be at risk.
(Image Credit: © Ben Chams - Fotolia.com)