Besides medical education credentials, specialty experience, and a pleasant bedside manner, the next most important thing a doctor can have is a good — or preferably great — reputation. It can be a deciding factor between a new patient choosing your practice instead of another. And today, having a healthy online reputation as a physician and medical practice is more important than ever.
Just take a look at these convincing statistics:
- According to a recent report published on the Journal of Medical Internet Research, not only did 88 percent of adults in the United States search the internet for health-related information, but 47 percent of adults Americans looked up information about their providers online, 37 percent reviewed physician-rating sites, and seven percent who consulted online information about their provided posted a review online themselves. Thirty percent compared physician’s online before making their choice as well.
- A further study reported as part of the Pew Internet and American Life Project revealed that 43 percent of people with a chronic disease looked online for information about doctors.
- A survey by Software Advice of 4,515 patients in the United States indicated that patients used online review sites as a tool to research doctors. As a first step to find a new physician, the majority (62 percent) of uses online reviews as their initial go-to method.
- In 2011, 28 percent said they searched online for information about the quality of care provided by a primary care physician or medical specialist as compared to 24 percent in 2010, according to the 2011 Survey of Health Care Consumers in the United States published by Deloitte.
Statistics aside, it just makes pure common sense in today’s digital age for physicians to manage their online reputation. Negative comments, whether its a misleading mainstream media article or defamatory online review from a disgruntled patient, can paint a physician and his practice in an unflattering, and possibly incorrect light, causing the medical practice doorbell to ring less often.
Online reviews can have a major influence on the success of a medical practice, but that shouldn’t frighten medical practitioner owners. While a negative online review can drive patients away, good online reviews can serve as a powerful physician marketing tool.
With that in mind, physicians should have a keen awareness of the areas for which they and their practice are being evaluated by patients.
What’s Being Rated and Reviewed?
While there are many areas of physician qualities, care, and services that are being discussed, reviewed, and rated by patients online, the majority fall into these categories:
- Communication skills - This includes an explanation of medical conditions and treatments, listening skills, attentiveness to patient, follow-up, and bedside manner. How rushed the physician seemed is a frequently-cited comment that physicians should pay particular attention to.
- Availability - Includes ease of scheduling, appointment availability, and wait time for scheduled appointments.
- Facilities - Waiting room comfortability and amenities, cleanliness, on-premises services (like lab services).
- Staff - How professional, helpful, and courtesy is the staff?
With the increased transparency in the healthcare system overall, it is essential for physician practices to pay attention — and close attention — to these patient rating categories.
Tips for a Healthy Online Reputation
On the web, information, whether good or bad, can spread like a wildfire. Follow these general tips to make sure your practice’s online reputation works for you, rather than against you.
- Update directory listings. Create, optimize, and manage listings on HealthGrades, Yelp, Google+, ZocDoc, RateMD.com, and Vitals, in addition to Facebook and LinkedIn.
- Respond to comments, especially negative comments. For instance, patient comments such as “The doctor seemed rushed during my time with him” can be softened by responding “We take great pride in helping as many patients as possible since we are one of the few practices offering this specialty in the local area.”
- Improve your bedside manner. Patients refer to a physician’s bedside manner in online discussions more frequently than most other factor, says KevinMD.com, so doctors can do a lot to improve their online reputation simply by making patients feel that they are truly concerned about their wellbeing. To this end, physicians should work on presenting a less “rushed” appointment, and even work on lengthening patient appointment times if possible. Building trust by continually following up with patients also helps.
- Engage an online reputation management service. There’s no doubt about it; online reputation management (ORM) is a time consuming process. Employing a professional ORM service saves you time and money — and more importantly helps to keep your online reputation healthy.
- Create a large body of positive and patient-valued content. Providing relevant content in the form of blog postings and articles not only provides an additional source of information for patients and engage patients, but it can make detrimental articles in newspapers become deeply buried into the back pages of search engines. In other words, creating a large body of positive content can outweigh negative material. Post engaging content and industry relevant content at least weekly on your website’s blog and Facebook pages.
Physcian Marketing Online Reputation Management Takeaway
Patients are increasing becoming healthcare consumers, and the impact of patients reviews and rankings on physician practices can no longer be overlooked or ignored. It is imperative that physicians become proactive in managing their online reputation through physician marketing in order to attract and retain patients and increase their bottom line financial metrics.