While being an excellent physician is enough to make your current patients happy, it does not in itself help to grow a practice. When potential new patients look for healthcare providers, they have a world of options and telling physicians apart is not an easy task. Decisions get made based on what people say, both in person and online. This is where patient feedback and reviews come into play.
According to the latest numbers, 72% of patients use online reviews to begin their physician search – and with good reason. Other than word of mouth, the internet is the only way to get information about a physician’s practice prior to booking your appointment. While your website may tell patients what you do for a living and where you went to school, it doesn’t tell them who you are in the examination room. Patient feedback is a straightforward way to showcase your bedside manner and the quality of your practice.
Patient feedback lets other people know what type of healthcare provider you are: wait times, responsiveness, bedside manners, ease of appointment setting, follow up, as well as medical skill. The reality is that patients want more than a “good doctor” and the only people who can credibly tell them whether you “fit the bill” are your patients. The way to do that is to capture patient feedback and place it online on the places your patients are looking.
Use Your Professional Listings to Your Advantage
A number of websites create a generic profile for you but until you claim it, it’s utility is limited – not to mention it’s at risk of being claimed by a competitor. WebMd, Healthgrades, and Yelp are all examples of profiles you should be using to your advantage.
You should claim your profiles for a few reasons that will all, in turn, work to promote your practice. Claiming a profile makes sure nobody else can hack into it and edit it, which can effectively tarnish your professional reputation. Once claimed, you can also update your information, making sure people know where to find and what number to call if they want to reach your office. In doing so, you can add more information, including photos, to fully fill out the profile. This last step is critical because search engines, like Google, rank profiles that are filled out complete and have more reviews more highly than others. This is because they deem that the business is active and trustworthy because of the care taken with its profile.
Once you’ve done that, you will have a good profile that patients can leave feedback on and for prospective patients to get information from.
How Does Patient Feedback Fit into Online Promotions?
Collecting reviews from your patients in your office is the traditional method of collecting patient feedback. You can do it with cards, emails, or phone calls. However, for these reviews to be visible online, you will essentially have to retype and reshare them, taking away some of the trustworthiness of these reviews. After all, what is to stop a shady practitioner from adding reviews of their own and passing them off as authentic ones?
The more modern way of gathering patient feedback in a way that can directly feed into your practice’s online promotion is to direct patients to submit reviews on sites directly by sending them links to various websites in your “post visit check up” communications.
Google is the largest search engine in the world, so don’t underestimate the power of Google Reviews, which come up any time someone looks for your information. If you are working on gathering more patient feedback, it’s recommended that you start directing patients to Google to improve your online presence.
Is a Perfect Profile Realistic?
While you may want to have all positive reviews, a perfect record is not only difficult to maintain, but it can also be suspect. The more reviews you collect, the higher the chances of collecting an occasional negative review. Don’t panic! As long as your overall rating stays high, or the total number of positive reviews vastly outweighs the odd negative one, your practice will still look good.
Additionally, businesses from all verticals with all positive reviews can become suspicious in the eyes of the savvy prospective patient or customer who are looking at online reviews before booking an appointment.
Make Sure Your Patient Experience Inspires Great Feedback
Understanding your patients’ experience is also important for addressing issues within your practice. Are receptionists forwarding calls and greeting patients appropriately? Is scheduling easy or a hellscape? Is your front desk personnel antagonizing people? Are your nurses returning phone calls?
Not surprisingly, 53% of healthcare providers check online reviews about their own practice to perform quality control and get a sense of how well they are doing, as a practice rather than just as a provider.
As you are reviewing your profiles as they currently stand, and as you are gathering more reviews along the way, make sure you are actively working to improve your practice and make your patient’s experience even better. In the end, these patient-led changes will inspire better feedback to be left about your practice online.
Patient feedback is a critical tool for potential patients looking for their next healthcare provider. Be proactive; it’s worth the effort.
Arthur Miller works with medical practices and hospitals to provide marketing consulting, software, and services. He's also a technologist with an extensive background in telecommunications and open source technology. He lives in upstate New York, where he works remotely with clients throughout North America.