Shopping around for a new healthcare provider isn’t the same as finding the best neighborhood taco place, but anyone can do both online. While word-of-mouth and traditional advertising used to be the best way to grow a medical practice’s patient base, now online reviews are increasingly the first impressions that potential patients have.
While a four- or five-star rating might encourage customers to call and see if you’re accepting new patients, a low rating may indicate that patients have been finding fault with your care. Think about it: One upset client has the potential to do incredible damage to your medical practice. While medical professional liability insurance can help you mitigate costs and reputational damage in case of a lawsuit, there’s little your medical business can do in the face of a far-reaching, scathing online review.
But don’t worry, patient satisfaction doesn’t mean “bending to every patient’s desire,” as Harvard Business Review reminds us. “It is about making a sustained and genuine commitment to providing skilled and passionate care.”
Keep reading to learn more about how you can provide top-notch patient care, and also a few best practices for monitoring and responding to online reviews from patients.
The Impact of Online Patient Reviews
How important are patient reviews, anyway? It’s easy to brush off a few negative reviews as hearsay or chalk them up to miscommunication, but they may do more damage to your medical practice than you think. One report shows that 77 percent of patients use online reviews as their first step in finding a new doctor, and 47 percent of survey respondents would actually choose an out-of-network doctor with better reviews over an in-network doctor with poorer ones (controlling for doctor qualifications).
So, while you may have four generally positive reviews for every “Avoid this office! Rude staff and late appointments” post, your online presence could still dissuade new patients from enrolling. Having a high rating also helps you appear in the search results for online users who filter for four- and five-start reviews only!
Shaping Your Online Reputation
The only thing worse than a negative review is a negative review left unaddressed. As My Practice Reputation writes, “Your response to reviews is visible to anyone who searches about you or your practice online. If managed meticulously, each individual response to a review can be very impactful in balancing the effects of the negative ones.” In other words, you can actually use these reviews as a positive for brand and reputation building.
First of all, be sure to take each complaint seriously. Do not attempt to discredit or embarrass the original poster. Instead, reiterate how you strive to provide quality care, and invite the poster to contact your practice directly to discuss their experience.
Prioritize the Patient Experience
Online reviews start well before your patient logs onto Yelp or Healthgrades to write about their experience. Each phone call, waiting room period, exam prep, diagnosis and follow-up visit matters. Make sure your staff is doing everything they can to foster productive communication, a compassionate atmosphere and a trustworthy environment.
At the end of the day, online reviews aren’t everything, and you can’t control every post. But here’s what you can do for your medical practice: Ensure that you’re providing five-star care day in and day out and take the time to respond to reviews in the hopes of starting a productive dialogue.
And of course, for patient misunderstandings and extra financial security, don’t forget about the safety net that is medical professional liability insurance. Protect your practice with help from CoverHound today!