Ep. 24 Online Reputation Management & The Power of Positive Patient Sentiment

by | Feb 16, 2022

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You have no control over what patients say about your medical practice online, but the influence of ratings and reviews is simply too powerful to ignore. With the overwhelming majority of patients using online reviews to choose one practice over another, online reputation is not something you can afford to be passive about. It can be a key element of growing your medical practice if managed right.

Instilling healthcare consumer confidence is perhaps the most significant way online ratings and reviews impact medical care – patients want to know they will be in good hands and the comfort of knowing what to expect on their care journey. Patient feedback lets a practice know what they are doing well and where they need to improve with patient care.  

In this episode of the Medical Advantage podcast, Bill Riley, Vice President of Marketing, and Rebekah Duke, Senior Copywriter (both of Medical Advantage) sit down to talk about how to harness the power of positive patient sentiment. This program unveils the true power of online ratings and reviews management and what you can do to proactively manage your online reputation.

This is the latest episode in the Medical Advantage Podcast, where we take time each episode to discuss the ideas and technologies changing healthcare, and the best practices your organization can take to stay productive and profitable. Subscribe wherever you get your podcasts to ensure you never miss an episode.  

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Full Episode Transcript

Medical Advantage Podcast: Welcome to the Medical Advantage Podcast, where you can hear healthcare professionals, expert consultants, and industry thought leaders discuss the exciting new ideas and technologies that are changing the business of healthcare. Tune in to each episode as we hear from some of the most innovative minds in medicine about the future of healthcare and how your organization can stay profitable, efficient, and on top of industry best practices. 

Bill Riley: Hello and welcome to the latest episode of the Medical Advantage podcast. I’m Bill Riley, your host today. Now, for those of you who may be new to our podcast or new to Medical Advantage, let me just do a quick overview. We are a services company providing a broad range of services for medical practices, specialists, and groups. 

Ultimately, we’re helping accelerate performance across any number of categories, including the use of in-practice technology, cost, and utilization, and quality metric improvement. Ultimately to help drive financial performance in reimbursement contracts with payers, especially in the context of value-based care arrangements. 

About a year ago, Medical Advantage confirmed the acquisition of iHealthSpot Interactive, a leading marketing agency providing a full set of marketing services focused on medical and dental clients. So everything from websites, search engine optimization, pay-per-click ads, social media marketing and beyond. 

Today we’re gonna focus on an area of medical practice marketing and to do that, I’m pleased to introduce Rebekah Duke, a member of our marketing team.  

First Rebekah, thank you for joining us.  

Rebekah Duke: Thank you, Bill. I’m glad to be here.  

Bill Riley: All right. So today we’re gonna talk about a topic in the practice marketing lane. This is a topic you’ve been writing about, blogging about quite a bit of late, and that’s online reputation management. So let’s just jump right into it.  

To start, can you tell us why online reputation management is really an indispensable part of a long-term practice marketing strategy? 

Rebekah Duke: Yes, so online reputation management, or as we also call it ratings and reviews management is just one of the most effective long-term strategies to nurture your practice brand because it promotes consumer confidence. Put quite simply, a brand is more than just your logo or your tagline, it’s how consumers perceive you. Have they heard of you? What have they heard about you?  

We can comfortably use terms like brand and consumer confidence in a medical context now because the consumerization of healthcare just continues to propagate. Not to confuse you with buzzwords too much, but you know, the consumerization of healthcare is just a fancy way of saying that patients now act like consumers thanks to how platforms like Google have centralized the consumer experience.  

They can choose a healthcare provider in the same way they would an insurance broker or a plumber by going online to see what all their options for before making a choice. And part of that evaluation is to read those online reviews. 

Word of mouth has always been a reliable source of new business. Getting new clients, new patients, and online reviews is word of mouth on a larger and digital scale. So that brings me to the doctor.com survey where we found that almost 90% of patients are going to look at online reviews to vet referrals, meaning that they’ve already been recommended someone and they’re putting in that extra time to ensure that they’re making the best choice. 

And to me, this just signals that there’s a universal consumer sentiment regarding the influence others have to say. Not only do they want to hear about the quality of care that you provide, but now they can read that feedback and know what to expect when they come see you. Why go into a situation blindly when other patients can tell you all about it? 

Bill Riley: Yeah Rebekah, that’s so true and I’m just thinking of my own scenario here, my daughter and I were leaving for Florida shortly. We’ve got a soccer tournament, leaving the cold in the snow of Michigan, to go to Tampa. And we’re doing this, right now, checking out online reviews of the hotel we’re gonna stay at, we’re already looking at where we might go to dinner this night, that night. 

And you know, online reviews is part of the process and like you say, I don’t think healthcare is, is any different.  

Rebekah Duke: Yes. Hotels are an excellent example because of how similar they are to the patient experience, you know, is the location convenient? Is the check-in process easy? Is the service satisfactory? Do guests find out that they’ve been overcharged? Are the rates fair?  

There’s just a lot of parallels to make between hotels and medical practices and you know, that’s just another example of how patients would view booking a doctor’s appointment as not being all that different from booking a hotel. 

Bill Riley: Very good. So what kind of rating or review, or if it’s a star rating, what should a practice be aiming for?  

Rebekah Duke: To borrow from the doctor.com survey once more, which is just chock full of information and insights, they asked what the lowest star rating a patient could live with from one to five. And most respondents said that four stars is the lowest that they would feel comfortable with when choosing a provider.  

So let’s say you do end up getting four stars. Does that mean that’s good enough? Does that mean you can just rest on your laurels, as they say? Not really, because you know when a patient does a Google search and sees another practice with five star reviews just above yours, naturally they’re gonna want the five-rated practice and that five star rated practice is probably gonna get more attention.  

And you know, while we’re on the subject of Google search, we should also mention that star ratings are a big component of how local search works. Patients will be confronted with your star rating, whether they were looking for it or not. It’s just right there in their face when they do searches.  

So, you know, Google can automatically decipher the intent of the user and then deliver search results in local search format. Say I look for skin tag removal or skin tag removal near me pediatrician, best pediatrician near me, Google’s gonna automatically deliver results that are localized.  

So if you’re in a geographic area that’s saturated with your specialty, Google is going to move the three best practices to the front line. Those are the ones that are going to be seen first, and this is determined by positive signals including ratings and reviews. So user might just go ahead and click to open the entire map and see all options in their area, but we know that those top three practices are gonna get the most brand exposure, also what we call online visibility.  

Bill Riley: Great. I didn’t know that. I didn’t understand that reviews actually have an influence in Google rankings as well, that’s interesting. So what factors influence patient reviews?  

Rebekah Duke: Yeah, we’re gonna look at this from two different angles. First of all, we’re going to lean on the doctor.com survey once more, and I’ll shout out to them for putting out such an insightful survey. So the top four factors, according to survey respondents, number one is customer service. Most second most popular is bedside manner.  

Third, ease of scheduling and fourth communication, so customer service being number one there’s a lot that you can control in that area” warm reception, organized check-in, satisfactory billing resolution, quick fulfillment of requests for records.  

So another factor to consider is how strong emotion compels and motivates consumers to leave reviews of their own volition. Either they’re totally elated with their service, or worse, the polar opposite, they’re very upset.  

Angry clients probably are feeling powerless when they’re in the middle of an unresolved matter. So naturally they leverage online forums to regain a sense of that power in a situation like that. A caring and a well-performing practice can unfortunately end up with a skewed star rating when the only ones being vocal online are the angry ones. That’s not good.  

You know, a practice deserves a fair rating, and between these two extremes, we have patients that never speak up. They wouldn’t leave a review, but they might if you asked them directly or incentivized it in some way. You know, also, an uneventful visit is quite frankly nothing to write, home about, so why would they write a review? 

But an uneventful visit is still a good visit, that can become a favorable review. So the goal there is to harvest reviews from the quiet ones who don’t have any strong emotions about that experience. In theory, the more reviews you can get from this particular group, the better your star rating average will improve. 

Bill Riley: Very good, very good. So I wanna go back to negative reviews and maybe it’s not all a bad thing, right? There’s always the, the opportunity maybe to turn a negative into a positive, you know, lemons to lemonade as they say. So Rebekah, can you say a little more about this?  

Rebekah Duke: Yes, there are some positive aspects to negative reviews, believe it or not. 

Number one, it’s the opportunity to retain a patient that might be on the way out. They’ve been trying to work out this issue for weeks, maybe months, nothing’s working out in their favor, and leaving a negative review is a way to point out this particular situation has perhaps fallen through the cracks.  

And now you have an opportunity to make it right with that patient because you know a lot of patients are not gonna speak up, they’re just gonna get frustrated. The next thing you know, you’re getting a request to move their file over completely to another practice. They never gave you a chance. That patient that’s complaining is giving you that last ditch opportunity to keep them as a patient.  

This is also an opportunity to respond compassionately in public view where onlookers can see it. You know, Glassdoor found that 70% of job seekers would change their mind about an employer based on how they reply to these reviews.  

So why is this Glassdoor figure relevant? Well, you know, keep in mind that a lot of industries are being impacted by what’s called the Great Resignation labor shortage, healthcare included.  

So you know your reviews can help employees decide where they want to apply, as well as it helps patients decide where they seek care. So, you know what this Glassdoor result tells us is that responding to reviews can make a difference. And like I said earlier also shows that you give a flip about the quality of care you provide. 

And lastly, it will mitigate further bad reviews and prevent patient attrition. Again, those patients that never speak up, you never get to find out why they left. They just quietly move to another practice. So this helps you find the leak in the boat so you can plug it up.  

Thus, you continue to improve upon patient experience so that you can rise to the level that consumer expectations continues to trend upward as experiences in all areas of life continue to become more seamless in the digital space. You can’t really improve upon patient experience without knowing what patients think and negative reviews bring these actionable issues. 

Bill Riley: Very good, very good. So really it’s about being active here. Some people have a feeling or maybe it’s a myth that there’s really nothing that I can do about negative reviews. I have no control. But you would say otherwise, right?  

Rebekah Duke: Absolutely. People think, well, you know, if I have no control over what patients are saying about me, if I have no control over what customers are saying about me, then what can I really do about that? I can’t tell them not to leave a review. I can’t tell them to delete the review. You know, what can I really do in that situation?  

But I’m telling you the last thing you want to do about online reviews and ratings is to be passive about it. It’s just good public relations to respond to these reviews. It shows that you care enough about your patients to take the time to respond to their concerns. And now you owe it to your staff to capture as many positive reviews as possible because it boosts morale, no one wants to hear that they’re falling short all the time. 

You know, we need those wins to provide even more great service moving forward. It also rewards you for your hard work. You have your head down doing the most to deliver good patient care, not really paying attention to your online reputation, and now you end up with a low star rating you don’t deserve. That’s not right.  

 Harvesting reviews helps you correct a star rating, a rating that does not reflect the hard work you put in. You deserve a star rating that fairly represents your care quality and the end result you attract new patients and you attract great job candidates.  

Bill Riley: Very good, very good. 

So we’re starting to wrap up here. Maybe we can give our listeners a couple of things that they can work on. So starting with, what are some ways that a practice can capture positive patient sentiment and satisfaction, you know, ultimately to nurture the brand. 

Rebekah Duke: Yeah, so the two main vessels to capture positive patient sentiment in order to build your brand, nurture your brand is online reputation management and social media, like online ratings and reviews. Social media captures that patient satisfaction so that you can attract more patients with that nurtured brand, with that strong brand presence.  

It’s a place for you to interact with your patients outside of office hours. You don’t really get that much time to bond and connect with your patients so now you can do it on their own leisure time while they’re scrolling social media.  

And another thing to consider is how Facebook check-ins and page likes are going to show up as a personal endorsement for certain users. Meaning that if a personal contact of theirs has interacted with your page by either checking in online with Facebook or by liking the page. Facebook is gonna tell that user that someone that they know personally has interacted with your page, and that in itself is an endorsement. So you should encourage your patients to follow you on social media when you can. 

Positive patient engagement signals to the local community that patients have had a great experience with you and this nurtures your brand through positive public relations. So an engaging post will end up triggering a comment section that becomes its own little mini online reviews form, hey, that’s my doctor. He did a fantastic job on my surgery. Wonder wonderful results. Hey, that’s my nurse. She’s fantastic. I always love it when I see her in the office.  

You know, if you’re feeling bold, you might even approach these commenters privately and ask them to leave a review for you elsewhere online. And on that note, faces get really great engagement. So you might wanna consider featuring your providers and staff and photos and videos as much as possible because that will give you that brand nurturing engagement that you need to signal positive consumer sentiment about your practice.  

Bill Riley: Okay, great. So going maybe to the next level of detail, what can practices do to improve their online reputation? 

Rebekah Duke: Our approach is monitor, engage, and capture. So having an extensive background in consumer feedback, I’ve seen firsthand how the biggest names globally in all industries are investing in ratings and reviews. They’re quite proactive to solicit reviews from consumers by email. You know, most patients just need to be asked for feedback, otherwise you’ll never know what they think. 

You can set up your checkout process to ask for reviews automatically. Some might even be able to have their EHR set up to automatically send these requests at the completion of a visit. Also, put up signage that reminds people to leave a review on Facebook, Google, Yelp, all of those.  

Just don’t be passive. You know, the influence of ratings and reviews is just way too powerful to be ignored. You deserve an online reputation that reflects the hard work you put into patient care. So with our online reputation management services, we watch those reviews, respond to all them, positive or negative, we engage. 

So it makes the practice look like they are tending to patient concerns. We escalate those that need your special attention and we capture that positive patient sentiment.  

Bill Riley: Okay. Great. Rebekah thanks a lot. That brings us to our time today. First of all, great job. Thank you for sharing your insights. The reputation management for medical practices is clearly a very important area. 

Great work. And for you, our audience. We hope you found this session useful, and we look forward to seeing you in a future session. Thanks everyone. 

Medical Advantage Podcast: Thanks for joining us this week on the Medical Advantage Podcast where we discuss the ideas and technologies changing healthcare and what they mean to your organization. For more information, visit us at medicaladvantage.com and make sure to subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcast, so you never miss a show. 

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