Studies have shown that a majority of patients are now using online reviews as a first step to finding a new doctor, and nearly 65% of people form an opinion by reading anywhere from one to six reviews.
According to BrightLocal’s Local Consumer Review Survey, 70% of consumers will leave a review for a business if asked, so encouraging patients to leave positive reviews for a practice not only helps to build a solid reputation, but also helps to buffer the occasional negative review.
That’s why it is absolutely essential that doctors strengthen their online reputation.
“Doctors need to get proactive in asking their patients for feedback,” says Matt Buder Shapiro, co-founder and chief marking officer of New York-based patient relationship startup, MedPilot. “In order to increase the chances of receiving feedback, you need to directly ask for it, either in person at the end of a visit or digitally through email/[text message]. Encouraging feedback in general, and not just pleading for good reviews, will make patients much more likely to oblige.”
Janice Johnston, MD, a primary care physician at Arrowhead Health Centers in Glendale, Arizona, says when wrapping up the appointment, she simply asks the patient to leave a short testimonial or review on one of her online review sites.
“When a patient is a promoter of the practice and has an amazing story to tell, we ask if they would mind sharing on social media, and they usually are very willing to do so,” she says. “Having positive reviews and a presence on the web definitely helps when patients are searching for a new provider, especially for Millennials. We all feel better when we have a good connection, and social media and reviews can give a good indication of confidence and the ability to connect.”
As a patient is leaving the office of Risheet Patel, MD, of Fishers Direct Family Care, in Fishers, Indiana, he asks whether they’ve had a good experience, and if they answer in the affirmative, he asks if they would consider sharing the experience online.
“You don’t want to come off overpowering or overtly asking. If the patient has mentioned to you multiple times that they’ve had a good experience, gently remind them to share that experience online,” Patel says. “That said, if they only come in for one visit, it may come off too forcefully if you ask then. You just have to find the right balance.”
There are some other simple things doctors can do to persuade their patients to post on review sites, including listing the practice with online review sites so it’s easy for people to find and leave reviews, incentivizing staff to encourage patients to leave a review and spotlighting in marketing materials patients who have left positive reviews.
Napoleon Maminta, MD, a primary care physician at Naptown Priority Health in Noblesville, Indiana, says it helps if patients have access immediately, because you don’t want to make writing a review to be work for them.
He recommends having patients complete a questionnaire on a tablet or website while still at the office, which they then could post to their own personal Yelp or social media profile.
“However, if you’re a doctor who doesn’t have that platform set up or if you’re too busy, it will be more difficult to secure those reviews,” he says. “You have to proactive because those reviews will only help you.”
What they say
Of course, doctors love it when someone writes something positive, but it can be really discouraging when someone writes something negative. But there are ways to turn a negative review around or having the complaint removed.
“While you can’t always resolve everything, just listening and showing that you truly heard their concern can make a big difference,” Johnston says. “Remember that you can always respond online and let them know that you’ll reach out to them right away to follow-up but you should never get caught up to respond with anything that could violate HIPPA.”
The BrightLocal survey also shows that 95% of unhappy customers will return to a business if an issue is resolved quickly and efficiently—and that’s true with patients as well.
“All reviews, positive and negative, are opportunities to engage with clients,” Shapiro says. “Responding to a positive review reinforces the client’s message and helps build long-term loyalty—a win-win—but don’t ignore negative reviews.”
Sooner or later, if a physician isn’t already on one of these review platforms, someone will make one for them so they can leave a review—and usually those who will go out of their way to do so are the unsatisfied ones ready to post a scathing review. Keeping a well-monitored, highly engaged review profile will not only help doctors respond to and appease negative reviewers, but it gives them valuable insight on areas of the business they can make improvements in.