The primacy of online reviews in the marketing of medical practices is the 'new normal,' according to a recent survey.
For clinicians, online reviews should be a primary concern for several reasons: review websites such as HealthGrades and Vitals are collecting information and posting it across the country, online reviews can be robust marketing tool, and reviews can help hone clinician performance.
"This is the new normal for medical practices in 2019. Choosing a doctor based on online profiles and patient reviews is the old word-of-mouth at today's scale and speed. Number of reviews, average star rating, and convenient hours and locations are essential 'shopping' details that patients expect to find before stepping foot into a waiting room," the recent survey's report says.
The survey, which features responses from more than 800 people about online reputation and patient reviews, generated several key data points:
- 74.6% of respondents had researched doctors, dentists, or medical care online
- 69.9% said a positive online reputation is very or extremely important in selecting a healthcare provider
- 51.8% of patients who had submitted negative online reviews about a medical practice had not been contacted to address their concerns
- Patient satisfaction doubles when a medical practice addresses a negative online review
"While satisfied patients are more prevalent online than unhappy ones, the fact remains more than 1 in 3 patients who've shared their experience online have submitted a negative review. Negative reviews are going to pop up—they're an unavoidable aspect of customer service for any business, in any industry," the survey's report says.
Responding to negative reviews
The survey—which was conducted by Santa Monica, California-based PatientPop—shows the key role online reviews are playing in patients' selection of healthcare providers.
"This illustrates just how influential reviews are in patients' decision-making process. If a doctor or practice isn't making a strong first impression with online reviews, that's the difference between a newly acquired patient and a lost one," says Joel Headley, director of Local SEO and Marketing at PatientPop.
The powerful impact of addressing negative reviews was an unexpected finding of the survey, he said.
"It was surprising to see just how much patient satisfaction can increase—99%—following a negative review based on just one action: practices reaching out to address the patient's concerns. We assumed that good common courtesy and customer service would bump up respondents' satisfaction rates, but I don't think we expected they would double."
There are a handful of best practices when responding to negative reviews, Headley says.
"First, being prompt is critical—practices should respond to any negative review by the next business day. Second, whomever is responding for the practice should keep it short and professional, being clear that the patient's concerns are important and stating they want to help remedy the issue. They should also offer to reach out directly to the patient and take the conversation offline. Finally, practices must keep HIPAA compliance in mind, never including any personal health information or care details within the response even if the patient does."
Christopher Cheney is the senior clinical care editor at HealthLeaders.
Online reviews are a robust marketing tool for medical practices.
When practices receive a negative online review, a prompt response is essential to improving patient satisfaction.
Responses to negative reviews should be concise and professional.