Online Reputation Management for Healthcare Practices: Capturing and Amplifying Positive Patient Experiences

Online reviews of healthcare providers are becoming more prevalent — and raising concern among physicians, practice managers and marketers alike. Any patient with access to the web can write reviews and affect online ratings of your providers. The number of review sites is growing. And the unfortunate fact is it’s often the most unsatisfied patient who makes the effort to write reviews of your physicians and your practice.

Consumer review websites such as HealthGrades.com, Vitals.com and Yelp.com are among the busiest, and dozens of other physician-specific ratings sites are growing rapidly and place high within search engine results. This means when your potential patients search the web for your physicians or your practice they may find negative reviews made by other patients.

It is essential to be aware of what’s being said about your practice as quickly as possible, both positive and negative. While you can’t have negative reviews changed or deleted (unless they are grossly untrue or unnecessarily inflammatory), you can act to promote positive patient experiences.

One of our healthcare clients — an independent physician group with eight area locations — recently came to us with the dilemma of how to combat a few incendiary online reviews. We have developed a program to monitor what’s being said and to bury the negative reviews by capturing and amplifying positive experiences from the silent majority of satisfied patients.

Our program begins with establishing a baseline on what’s being said and where. We’ve engaged Reputation.com to monitor each physician individually as well as the practice as a whole. They provide us with an online portal allowing us to view what’s been posted in the past, and we receive e-mail alerts of any and all new online reviews and other mentions of our doctors and practice on the web when they occur.

We’ve implemented a survey program that is two-fold: we send existing patients links to online surveys via e-mail, asking for feedback and if they’re willing to be contacted to share more about their experience. We’ve created in-office displays containing review cards to gather feedback from patients at the time of their visit. We’re beginning to receive very positive feedback, some of which is from patients willing to relate their story on the practice’s website in the form of testimonials, and as positive reviews on healthcare grading sites. Any negative feedback is routed to appropriate managers within the practice, who quickly contact patients and work to resolve issues. It’s a win-win scenario for the practice and its patients.

Our program has increased the number of positive testimonials, and we’re using these on the practice’s website and in social media. It also provides a vehicle for any unhappy patient to address their issue directly with the practice instead of venting their grievances online. This proactive approach will undoubtedly raise the online reputation of our client practice.

We know that every practice is unique and faces unique challenges, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution to managing your online reputation. However, we’ve learned that taking the time to establish and maintain a program that monitors online reviews while proactively seeking and amplifying positive feedback, we can support a practice’s overall brand by sharing positive patient experiences.