A healthcare professional’s reputation is crucial to the success of their practice. In years past, reputations were made and lost largely by word of mouth. Now, the internet largely influences the reputation of doctors, practice coordinators, and other medical professionals. Accordingly, they must monitor and manage what is posted on their websites and other medically-related sites. No one in the industry can afford to leave their online image to chance.
Responding to Negative Comments
If a patient posts a negative review, a doctor’s first instinct may be to take it down if it’s on their site, or to respond defensively. Professionals are like anyone else; they often feel personally attacked when their service is criticized. Experts recommend that healthcare professionals always reply to poor patient reviews, first by thanking the writer for communicating their experience and then by considering the complaint objectively. They should then specifically address the complaints, acknowledge if mistakes were made and relay any improvements that have been or will be made to prevent these problems from recurring.
Of course, they must always respect HIPAA, so they should invite the patient to call or come into the office if they need to address private, protected information.
Encouraging Positive Reviews
Some doctors are reluctant to ask patients to write reviews, believing that doing so is not dignified. But since a majority of patients choose their doctors based on their online presence, positive reviews are essential. Getting a patient to write a review is not difficult if the healthcare provider does so in a relaxed, non-pressuring way. They can simply ask the patient right before they leave if they are happy with the service provided. If they answer affirmatively, a staff member should ask them to write a brief online review and hand them a sheet of paper with the web address. Research shows that 70 percent of business customers who are asked will write a review.
Video testimonials go beyond a written review. Adding short videos to a web page can impact online visitors more strongly than a written blurb. Potential patients find the words and faces of real patients compelling, particularly if they have a powerful story to tell. These testimonials should be reserved for patients who have faced particularly trying medical issues and have received help and healing from the doctor and their staff. These video shoots take planning and help from a trained videographer. Their marketing value is well worth the effort that they require.
All doctors should consider writing blogs on their medical specialty or general wellness issues. These blogs are not meant to advertise but to inform. An ophthalmologist could write a series on cataracts, explaining what to expect before, during and after the surgery. Podiatrists could post blogs on the prevention and treatment of hammertoes. The focus is to provide necessary information while displaying their expertise. A blog with a helpful and understanding tone appeals to patients of all ages and backgrounds.
As medical professionals know, their practices are a business, so they must be prepared to use all the marketing tools available to them. Managing their internet presence can enhance their reputation by demonstrating their commitment to customer service. Plus, potential customers can “get to know” the doctor and practice before making an appointment.
A strong, positive internet presence requires effort on the part of healthcare professionals. This effort can pay huge dividends in customer satisfaction and an increase in new patients.