Reputation is critical to every healthcare provider and while many use the internet to promote that reputation, few use the tools it offers to effectively identify and address bad press. Damaging reviews, articles, and blogs can taint a provider’s reputation but they also present an opportunity to respond to the authors to mitigate the damage.
Identifying Bad Press:
The use of online reviews to evaluate or select a physician increased from 25% in 2013 to 42% in 2014. Most of these people used positive reviews to help them select a new physician. Fortunately, the more reviews you have the less impact one negative one will make on your reputation. There are several sites that provide physician reviews but the ones cited as most often used are:
Yelp and Healthgrades were viewed by consumers as the most trusted of these sites. Your patients should be encouraged to leave reviews on these popular sites but you should periodically monitor them for reviews from unsatisfied patients.
You should also leverage Google and Google Suggest to conduct monthly searches on your company name. These searches will identify articles and blogs that mention your organization and often provide you with an opportunity to respond. Even a “thank you for your feedback” statement will be seen in a positive light by others reading these pieces.
Responding to Bad Press:
Over 80% of online review are either neutral or positive, but what do you do when a review is negative? One of the biggest challenges healthcare providers face is patient privacy restrictions. You cannot speak directly to any treatment aspect of care or otherwise identify the patient or present their personal information such as diagnosis, expected outcomes, etc. Even if the reviewers presents this information themselves, do not repeat it or expand on the information.
Despite these limitations, there are several ways to address bad reviews and negative press.
- Respond privately if the person has identified him or herself. Apologize for the problem, explain how you will address it, and be sympathetic to the impact it had on the patient. If done well, a critic can become a loyal advocate.
- Don’t respond to a negative review if you have many positive ones. It is likely that your loyal patients will step in and support you and negate the bad review. This is a more effective response than if you did so yourself.
- If you feel you must respond, wait until you can address the matter calmly. The impulse to type in a scathing remark is strong, but it can damage your reputation more than the initial review. Give yourself at least 15 minutes before responding.
- When you choose to respond, stay positive and flip the “script.” Apologize for the problem followed by positive statements such as: “We are sorry that you had a long wait time before seeing the physician. We work hard to keep to our schedule and have added additional staff to help us with this goal.” Do not be defensive, even if the person is unreasonable, i.e. the road was flooded and the doctor was late in arriving to the office.
Monitoring your brand and reputation on the internet is a necessary component of your marketing plan. Remember that bad press is inevitable but your response will determine the extent of its effect on your practice.