We live in a digital era, and the consumer (which includes patients) has more power and a bigger voice than ever before. And due to that, many practices are facing massive online reputation problems.
The state of your online reputation has a major influence on the success of your practice. And these days, online reviews play a large role in the makeup of your online reputation. So what should you do to protect your online reputation and make sure it doesn’t get damaged beyond repair?
The Power of Online Reviews
The way that people are choosing their doctors is changing. Online reviews sites, such as Google Reviews and Healthgrades, now have a growing influence on doctors’ reputations and their ability to attract new patients. In fact, according to Software Advice, 72% of patients report using online reviews as the very first step to finding a new doctor. That’s huge! So, essentially that means: what your current patients are saying about you can either help you attract new patients or scare away potential patients. However, many practices in the US are making several major online reputation mistakes, and those mistakes are impacting their reputation and patient acquisition in a negative way.
3 Huge Mistakes That Could Ruin Your Online Reputation
Okay, let’s jump right into the meat of the presentation. My goal for this blog is to help you avoid damaging your practice’s image. So I’m going to share three of the top online reputation mistakes that your practice needs to avoid.
Let’s just rip the bandaid off and jump right in.
Mistake #1: Not having an online reputation strategy
If you’re a physician, I’m sure you know that having a good reputation is important for growth. And assuming that your practice doesn’t need an online reputation management strategy is one of the most common (and harmful) mistakes that a practice can make. Let’s face it, we live in a digital era – that means that people go to social media and online review sites to voice their opinions and look for helpful information.
And just because your practice’s reviews are currently positive, that doesn’t mean that they will stay that way. Your online reputation can change in an instant. And the key to protecting your practice from a bad reputation, and the damage that negative online reviews can cause, is a good online reputation management strategy. And for those of you who aren’t familiar with an online reputation management (ORM) strategy, it has a lot to do with your practice’s online brand reputation. Essentially, it is a strategy that helps you control/manage what people on the Internet see about your practice online. Just from that quick overview, I’m sure you can see the importance of an ORM strategy.
Oh, and let me mention this – a lot of practices tend to try to figure out the problem when their number of new patients starts to decrease or their long-term patients decide to switch to a different doctor. Don’t wait until things start to go south; you need to be proactive. That’s why you need to have a strategy in place.
Honestly, I could write an entire blog on this one mistake, and our organization might in the future. However, for the sake of space on this blog, just remember that you need an online reputation strategy TODAY. And having a strategy in place is critical to your practice maintaining a positive brand identity in the eyes of patients.
Mistake #2: Ignoring Negative Reviews
If you’re ignoring the negative reviews that your practice receives, stop! Make that a thing of the past.Why? Because negative online review can influence potential patients in a major way. Plus, negative reviews can severely damage your online reputation if there isn’t a proper response/reaction plan in place.Don’t believe that negative reviews can have such a big impact and can scare away potential patients? Numbers don’t lie:
According to according to a BrightLocal study, a SINGLE negative review could drive away 22% of potential patients. Oh, but it gets worse. That percentage increases to 59% after just three negative reviews!
So you may not have control over what is posted, but you definitely have control over how your practice responds. That’s why it’s so important to respond to negative reviews, because if you don’t, the patient who wrote the review will feel completely justified in his or her anger because you’re not addressing the issue.
Essentially, being unresponsive can send the wrong message, and ultimately patients may feel like you don’t care about the level of service and care that you provide. That’s exactly what you do not want. When you see a negative review, it is your chance to address what went wrong, apologize, and see what you can do to make things right. To prospective patients, that demonstrates that you care. And truthfully, that can be the difference between someone completely writing off your practice or giving your practice a chance.
So, I think it’s safe to say that negative reviews hold a lot of weight. Therefore, my best advice is this – if you want to maintain a good online reputation, your practice needs to address reviews head on. When your patients share their feedback and experiences on review sites, your practice needs to be there listening and responding. And if you don’t have the bandwidth for someone on your team to handle the task, outsource it to a legitimate online reputation management company like Website4MD.
Mistake #3: Posting non-compliant responses to online reviews
Now this one is a biggie – a lot (and I mean A LOT) of medical practices and clinics across the nation post online review responses that are NOT HIPAA compliant. Honestly, I saved this one for last because numerous practices across the nation are making this mistake, and it can have huge consequences.
Like it or not, responding to reviews matters to patients. However, unfortunately for those in the medical profession, HIPAA laws can make it a bit more difficult to respond to reviews.
So what do you do?
You can still respond to reviews (and you should). However, you should follow a set of guidelines.
The one thing you really need to keep in mind is that your practice can’t disclose any information that indicates or alludes that a reviewer is a patient. Even if a patient leaves their name and a information about a visit to your clinic, if you include any information in your response that indicates that the reviewer is/was a patient, that could get your practice in major trouble.
That makes it hard right? I know. However, posting responses that aren’t HIPAA-compliant can get you in some very serious hot water, and sometimes even into legal issues.
However, one of the best tips that I can give you is to simply ask to take the conversation offline. You can have them call your office, then you (or a designated staff member) can talk with them about the situation over the phone. Another good solution would be to have your practice’s legal representation look over the responses that you would like to post. And another great solution would be to partner with an online reputation management company that has experience crafting HIPAA-compliant responses. That way, you can be worry-free knowing that professionals are handling your review responses and online reputation.
The Bright(er) Side of Things
Your online reputation is important, so make sure that you have a solid plan to keep it intact. And honestly, a good starting point is simply avoiding the reputation mistakes that I mentioned above.
And in today’s society where 72% of new patients select their doctors based on online reviews, it’s important that your online reputation reflects the quality of care and service that your practice actually provides. That’s where Website4MD can help. If you choose to partner with a medical online reputation services company, our team would be happy to help you avoid the common online reputation mistakes mentioned above. Let’s schedule a time to chat!