By Jamie Johnson, WCI Contributor
The internet has permanently changed the way patients find their doctors. Instead of turning to friends or family to ask for a referral, many people will now begin their search online. Even if they do receive a referral, 92% of patients will still conduct their own research. That means you could be an excellent physician but still lose out on potential patients due to negative online reviews. Thus, managing your online reputation is paramount to your career.
Healthcare reputation management becomes more important every year, but it’s still something many physicians struggle to understand. Fortunately, there are many strategies you can utilize to improve or repair your online reputation.
How to Do Online Reputation Management
Physicians often start thinking about reputation management when something negative happens—they receive a number of poor reviews or bad press coverage. But the best way to manage your online reputation is to do it proactively. Here are seven steps to get started.
Optimize Your Practice’s Website
Your practice’s website is one of the most important elements of your online reputation. When potential patients Google you, it hurts your credibility if you don’t have a website—or if it’s outdated and hard to navigate.
Plus, if your website isn’t SEO-optimized, it will limit your visibility to new patients looking for a doctor in your specialty. Make sure your page titles, meta tags, and page descriptions are all updated. Adding new content to your blog will help drive more organic traffic to your site.
But most importantly, make sure you include any relevant information patients need to know about you and your practice. Include how many years you’ve been practicing, your specialty, what insurance companies you accept, and your educational background. The more helpful your website is to potential patients, the better success you'll have.
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Create a Social Media Presence
You want to make sure your public social media profiles are up-to-date, engaging, and professional. Post regularly on your social media profiles and include useful information and helpful updates about your practice.
If you have any personal social media accounts, it’s best to make them private and edit your sharing settings so patients can’t easily find you. When patients look you up online, they should only find your professional profiles. That doesn't mean you can't have a little bit of fun for your patients. Many docs, for example, have found plenty of success on TikTok.
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Claim Your Google Business Profile
Next, you should claim your Google Business Profile—it’s free, and it will significantly improve search rankings for your practice. Your Business Profile can help you find more local patients as well.
After you claim your profile, make sure you update all the information patients will need about your practice. This includes information like:
- Your business address
- Your phone number
- Your business hours
- The services you offer
- High-quality photos
- A link to your website
- Links to book appointments or access virtual care
Ask Your Patients for Reviews
In 2013, only 25% of patients used patient reviews of doctors. According to one survey, 90% of patients now use patient reviews to varying degrees, and 65% use them often or on occasion. Google reviews are the most common with Healthgrades and Yelp coming in next.
Begin asking your patients to leave you online reviews—happy patients are likely to say yes. The more reviews you receive, the more accurately they will reflect the patient experience. A handful of negative reviews aren’t as damaging if you have dozens or hundreds of positive patient reviews.
There are many ways you can ask patients for reviews. You can do this in person or by sending an automated email or text after a visit. You can even send a QR code that will take patients directly to the review site.
Respond to Every Online Review
It’s important to respond to every review you receive, including negative ones. Responding to reviews shows potential patients that you care about the experience they have with your practice.
Negative reviews can be difficult to respond to, especially if they are inaccurate or unfair. But in the best-case scenario, responding to negative comments gives you an opportunity to fix the problem. Most importantly, you should never argue with a patient online because it can only escalate the situation and reflect poorly on you. You should apologize if it's necessary and encourage the patient to contact your office privately.
Train Your Staff on Good Customer Service
Imagine this: a patient calls to schedule an appointment with you, and they get a busy signal and have to call repeatedly for 10 minutes just to get through. Or maybe they can get a hold of a staff member, but scheduling appointments is difficult and tedious. Or let’s say a patient asks a staff member a question and that employee rolls their eyes and seems put out by the request. All of these scenarios have nothing to do with you specifically, but they affect the experience that the patient has with your practice.
An often overlooked element of reputation management is training your staff on how to effectively interact with patients and provide good customer service. If your staff can’t provide good customer service, this will show up in your online reviews and hurt your reputation as a physician.
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Use a Reputation Management Company
Finally, monitoring your online reputation is a job that never ends. If you reach the point where you can't manage it on your own, you might consider using an online reputation management company. The right company can help you monitor your online reviews and increase your visibility to new patients. Some companies even offer tools for your staff, like a HIPAA-compliant CRM and chat and messaging tools.
As our world continues to move more and more into the digital space, it's important to be thinking about your online reputation. Failing to do so will only make it more difficult to run a successful practice and keep your career moving forward.
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