As a child, when you did not want to listen to your annoying sibling, you simply covered your ears with your hands and pretended they did not exist. Inevitably, if you practiced this action consistently, the sibling would finally give up on any hope of getting through to you. This successful tactic meant you could move on with life without having to hear from that annoying sibling. In fact, ignoring any attempt of communication from them was the ideal situation. In a way, ignorance was bliss when it came to any acknowledgement of their existence.
Today, the voice of the patient can be heard loud and clear from so many corners of the digital world. In the social media-driven world that we live, there is a growing trend of patients migrating to online review sites in an effort to rate their recent medical visits.
A recent study by Deloitte indicates that 52 percent of US internet users are likely to use sites with reviews and ratings of doctors. If over half of the patient population is at least considering the use of these review sites, then the days of physicians ignoring these online reviews are gone.
Until recently, when the subject of online reviews was discussed, it was completely understandable to be that child in the back seat ignoring any input from the loud and annoying sibling. However, taking the "ignorance is bliss" approach today can be harmful to a physician. As online platforms continue to evolve, a physician's reputation can be enhanced or damaged in an instant.
PricewaterhouseCoopers found that 48 percent of 1,000 survey respondents said that they had read online reviews related to health care, such as doctor ratings, hospital reviews, insurance company information, and medical device reviews. Of this 48 percent, 68 percent said that these reviews influenced their decision and that they used the information to choose where to get health care. The voice of the patient has been magnified through the power and reach of the web. For this reason alone, the medical sector can no longer ignore these online review sites. In a nutshell, ignorance is NOT bliss in today's environment.
Many physicians want to do something about it, but simply feel that online reviews are completely out of their control. While some of the content placed on these review sites is more "patient-generated", there are a number of areas on the review sites that are completely in the control of the physician.
We have made a quick list of seven suggested actions that doctors can take in an effort to improve their online reputation:
Take Control and Ownership
Nearly every online review site allows the physician to claim their individual page. This provides physicians with the ability to update and add relevant and accurate information to their page. Whether it is the location of the practice or the educational background of the doctor, the control of these changes should rest in the hands of the medical practice. This step takes time and effort, but it is well-worth it in the long run. We understand physicians are extremely busy, so there are tools and services that manage this process for the medical practice.
Produce Great Content
The best way to keep negative content out of sight is by creating plenty of positive content. Content creation is completely in the control of the medical practice, and it comes in all shapes and sizes. Examples of content are blogs, videos, infographics, photos, e-books, newsletters, etc. Content creation establishes the medical practice as the authority in their field of practice, and it encourages positive feedback from current and future patients.
Establish A Social Media Presence
While it is not necessary to have a presence on all social media platforms, it is wise to find the right social media outlets for the medical practice. Social media allows the practice to share and amplify content that has been created with the social media community. By offering up content through social media, it establishes the physician as a thought-leader in the community. Social media also provides physicians with another avenue to answer any possible questions regarding negative online reviews.
Respond To All Reviews
If someone was kind enough to write a positive review, take 5 minutes to respond. The method or avenue of response is subjective and does not necessarily matter. Physician responses can be made by a hand-written card, a personal phone call, or an online response. Likewise, for negative responses, the same strategy holds true. In fact, many physicians often find that when a response is made to a negative review, the individual subsequently removes the review. In a study by market research company PhoCusWright, 78 percent of respondents said that a management response to online reviews makes them believe that the local business cares more about them. The same holds true for physician responses to patient reviews.
Listen To Your Patients
The easy approach by doctors and medical practices is to dismiss any negative reviews made online by patients. However, taking an objective approach by listening to the reviews may have a far greater impact with your patient base. Some of the reviews point out valid weaknesses within the practice. If these weaknesses are addressed and a change is made, the physician or the medical practice can address these changes via an online response.
Do NOT Fake It
Please do not be one of those businesses that submits fake reviews in an effort to improve your online reputation. This is considered review fraud, and it is not worth it. Many sites have review filters that detect and delete fake reviews. Additionally, some review sites, like Yelp, will implement a consumer alert system designed to warn reviewers about recent fake or "paid" reviews associated with the business.
Continue To Build A Great Offline Reputation
How people view you in person tends to remain consistent with how they think of you online. By working on their offline reputation, doctors can influence their online reputation with little effort. By simply creating a positive experience with patients on a daily basis, the online reputation of the physician will take care of itself. In fact, having a likeable and professional offline reputation will cause others to rise in the defense of a physician who happens to have a negative review online.
There is a significant amount of control left in the hands of the physician when it comes to their online reputation. Physicians that embrace this control and take a proactive approach with their online reputation will experience a positive impact in their medical practice. On the other hand, the physicians that choose to ignore their online reputation will place their reputation in the hands of others. Which option do you prefer?
As a medical marketing agency specializing in Inbound Marketing in Baton Rouge, the staff at BlinkJar Media monitors the online reputation and reviews of our medical clients. If you are in the medical industry and want to discover the current status of your online reputation, click here for a free online reputation report.