In the modern world of medicine, savvy consumer-patients demand more from healthcare providers than simply diagnosing a condition and prescribing an appropriate treatment plan. It is becoming more important for hospitals and providers to manage their online reputation to attract the attention of new patients and keep current patients satisfied with services. Increasing online visibility and positive market share growth includes developing an excellent website, improving customer service, streamlining patient flow, and many other factors in a technology-driven environment. Before you know your patients have a problem, it is likely that they have already shared their concerns with social peers, colleagues and family members.

Do you know what message your online presence says to people searching for medical services or a medical family home? You should. This article will familiarize you with some ways to build your brand, protect your reputation and recover from negative reviews.

Acquiring More Patients With Positive Reviews

In 2014, the Wall Street Journal reported survey results that revealed 25 percent of patients polled admitted they consulted online review sites before visiting a new doctor or medical facility. One study reported 84 percent of polled respondents say they either post or review ratings. With at least one-third of patients making decisions to avoid specific practices (or clinics) or make an appointment, it is easy to see why doctors cannot afford to ignore their online reputation. With that in mind, what can you do to monitor and manage your online presence and ensure your ratings stay high?

  1. Ask for patient feedback. Encourage patients to complete surveys after point-of-care encounters. Make follow-up calls to query patients about their experience in the office, with medical billing and ancillary staff. Although only a few of the 2,000 patients mentioned in the survey above reported they had posted online reviews, asking for a positive comment on Yelp, Healthgrades, Vitals or one of the other 50 or so medical review sites will enhance your credibility.
  2. Intentionally build a consistent message. Leverage online rating sites to your advantage. Standardize content across all platforms. Frequently update information on your website, business directories and healthcare referral sites. To boost your search engine ranking, make sure content is search engine optimized (SEO for Doctors) for both organic and regional searches. Focus on educating and informing patients about new research and evidence-based protocol — specifically for your patient population. Your message should be timely, accurate and relevant to garner social shares, which will extend your reach and strengthen brand reputation.
  3. Embrace negative reviews as an opportunity to grow. Dedicate a trusted individual to monitor key review sites and respond to all feedback, especially negative feedback. Each complaint — whether it is about terse front desk team member, error-laden statements or long wait times to see a doctor — should be addressed promptly. Admit you need to make some changes (when warranted) and apologize for times your customer service was lacking. Then, take corrective action to ensure similar problems don’t occur in the future.

Making the Connection: Your Online Reputation Depends on Organizational Efficiency

ModernMedicine Network reported survey findings that demonstrate the importance of intentionally exploring ways to streamline operational processes to improve patient perception and experiences. Although review site comments are definitely driving patient decisions today, 46 percent of patients choose a provider based on experience, and word-of-mouth referrals influence 38 percent of patients’ provider choices. Other top influencers include bedside manner, convenience (59 percent) and practice reputation (46 percent).

Automating communication, updating medical billing protocol to ensure claims are processed faster and more accurately, and implementing transparent billing practices will improve patient perception and relieve unnecessary burdens for staff members. This should result in more face-to-face time with patients to build stronger relationships, which will lead to more positive experiences and hopefully more positive online reviews.

The first step in discovering what message your online presence is sending to potential consumer-patients is to Google your practice name. Encourage feedback, monitor healthcare rating sites, and stay engaged with your audience. Remember, every touch point along the patient journey toward better health is an opportunity to build stronger relationships.

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Dana Deardorff is the Office Administrator for MediPro, Inc., a practice management and electronic health records software company. With over 11 years of experience in the healthcare marketplace, she embraces the model of cost efficiency and ultimate end user success.

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