August 18, 2023
If you are a physician in private practice, here’s a number that should capture your attention: 7 out of 10 consumers read online ratings and reviews before choosing a healthcare provider. Only insurance and location matter more.
Equally important, the same percentage (72%) want to see a four-star rating or higher before booking an office visit or other procedure.
The data, contained in a Healthcare Trends Report last year, shows what many physicians already know and some may be trying to ignore: online reviews matter.
Consumers are getting more savvy about shopping for medical services, which means practices must have an online presence that meets patients where they are and encourages them to call. Here are some ideas.
There are many websites that rate and review doctors, including ZocDoc, WebMD, Healthgrades, Vitals and Yelp. Managing these reviews, and encouraging positive posts, is a form of marketing. Just as with all of marketing, you can employ experts to help your practice improve.
There is an entire genre of “reputation management” software designed to encourage positive reviews, and there are services available as well. For example, Expert Reputation, a company designed to help organizations improve ratings, typically sees customers increase the number and quality of reviews in the first three months.
(Full disclosure: Expert Reputation is a partner of ours, and they offer a 30-day free trial and a 20% discount to Nitra cardholders)
While you are looking at obtaining professional help, you can create a thoughtful profile on each site, providing all the information they allow. Get professional photos made and use them. The goal is to make your presence on the review site look active and intentional, a very stark contrast to the many doctors who default to the bare minimum. Many of these sites offer paid plans that allow more visibility or promotion. You can start with free options, at least until you know which sites your patients use, and upgrade later if it makes sense.
One simple strategy to increase reviews—and one too often ignored—is to simply ask patients to participate. You can do this at the front desk, and then again via email or text. You don’t want to be a nuisance, but you will likely have to remind patients more than once because people are busy. Come up with a cadence that is comfortable and stick to it. You will almost certainly see results over time. If patients are using customer feedback to make their decisions, then they are more likely to leave feedback themselves.
You wouldn't want to pay customers for reviews, but you can create a culture in your office that encourages staff to ask patients. It may be as simple as a monthly goal for positive reviews, or it can be more elaborate. Getting your whole office involved in generating more and better reviews from patients who are happy with their quality of care is time well spent. How could 7 out of 10 consumers be wrong?