Patients are going online more than ever when it comes to picking a doctor. Telehealth visits have increased significantly since 2020, and more people are going online than ever when looking for a doctor; according to a survey conducted by YouGov, 68% of people look online to find more information about a healthcare provider, and 72% of people look for a new doctor online.
As such, how you appear online can have a tangible impact on the overall success of your practice. A reputation management strategy can increase your visibility to prospective patients, present a comprehensive view of you and your experience, and can safeguard your reputation against threats such negative patient reviews or malpractice lawsuits.
In this article, I will define reputation management and walk you through how you can assess and improve your online presence to ensure you have a healthy reputation.
What is reputation management?
Reputation management, also known as online reputation management (ORM), is the practice of influencing how you are perceived. A reputation management strategy can incorporate aspects of PR, SEO, social media, content, and digital marketing, and personal branding. How you build and execute your strategy, as well as achieve your long- and short-term goals, is contingent on your industry, audience, and personal reputation concerns.
A doctor’s reputation is primarily made up of patient feedback, be it word of mouth, online reviews, internal surveys, etc. Factors such as bedside manner, quality of care, experience, consideration of patients, and professionalism of your practice’s staff can all influence a patient’s experience with you and your practice and, thus, your overall reputation.
Although no two reputation management strategies are the same, focus areas for doctors can include:
- Establishing an online presence for yourself, your colleagues, and your practice,
- Monitoring and soliciting feedback from patients, generally in the form of internal surveys or online reviews,
- Establishing a response plan for online reviews, be they positive or negative,
- Highlighting achievements (such as research or recognition) and devaluing reputation threats (such as malpractice lawsuits or negative patient feedback).
Reputation Management for Doctors
To put your best foot forward online, you need to know where to start. Here, I’ve outlined some of the key factors to consider and strategies to implement to improve your reputation.
Know Your Reputation
When it comes to creating and executing your reputation management strategy, knowing where you’re starting from is key. Take time to Google yourself, your practice, and any other names or organizations that make up your online reputation.
Consider what you see. Are the results that populate for you or your practice relevant? Are there owned properties, such as a website or social media profile, that are not showing up in search results? Does your practice have a Google My Business (GMB) listing? Do any review sites populate for you or your practice? Does anything personal show up for your name?
Getting a sense of your online landscape can help guide you in determining your long- and short-term goals. If nothing really shows up for your name or the name of your practice, you’ll be starting with the basics. If your website ranks well for your name and you’ve already claimed your GMB listing, perhaps the first priority is developing a social media strategy or responding to reviews. If you have a built-out online presence, but your overall ratings tend to be lower than other doctors in your area, you will want to focus on soliciting more patient reviews and feedback and addressing concerns to improve.
Professional vs. Personal
Your personal online reputation can have an impact on how your practice is perceived. Be sure to maintain a professional image online; make personal social media profiles private, delete any outdated or irrelevant accounts or pages, and if you are contending with something more serious (such as mugshots, lawsuit coverage, etc.), you will need to incorporate reputation repair into your strategy.
Provide Relevant Information
Whether on your website, your Linkedin, or your GMB listing, you want to make sure that any information that could be important to prospective patients is easy to find. There are several factors that people take into account when choosing a doctor, including:
- Whether the doctor is in-network or not,
- Convenience of location,
- Procedure pricing,
- Ability to schedule easily or schedule online,
- Telehealth options,
- Quality of the facilities,
- Experienced staff
With nearly 70% of people going online to find out more about a doctor, establishing and maintaining an online presence as a doctor can ensure that important, relevant information about you and your practice is easily found by prospective patients. What’s more, for many people, finding and deciding on a doctor is a personal, sometimes nerve-wracking process; the simpler you can make the process for your patients, the more at-ease patients will be, and the more positive their experience with you and your practice.
Claim and Maintain Your Google My Business Listing
Interactions with healthcare provider GMB listings have been on the rise since 2020. For many businesses, if you have established an online presence for your practice, a GMB listing will be automatically generated. In some cases, you will need to create the listing manually. Either way, claiming and maintaining your GMB listing will ensure that the information displayed (such as location, business hours, relevant images, etc.) is accurate.
If you treat the first page of Google search results as your first impression, the GMB listing acts as your business card. Inaccurate information, strange images, or other issues may actually deter prospective patients.
To create a GMB listing, go to https://www.google.com/business/, log in with your professional email address, and create or claim your listing.
Recognize the Importance of Reviews
Reviews are a key factor in your reputation. According to BrightLocal’s 2023 Local Consumer Review Survey, 98% of people report reading online reviews to learn more about businesses, and more people are leaving reviews than ever: only 4% of people reported having never left an online review. While asking family and friends may be the primary way people look for a new doctor (with a web search coming in as a close second), roughly 50% of people trust online reviews as much as family and friends.
When it comes to choosing a doctor, reviews can have a tangible impact. Over 80% of patients consider online reviews when deciding on a doctor, and 75% only consider doctors with a rating above 4 stars. 50% of people have reported picking one doctor over another based on reviews.
According to a recent study by the American Hospital Association, 65% of physicians do not have any online reviews. No reviews are about as bad as a poor review rating, and can lead to patients passing you and your practice over in favor of those who have a more established online presence.
According to BrightLocal, consumers consider healthcare to be one of the industries that they most consider online reviews. 66% of consumers report that they trust Google most when it comes to healthcare reviews, and roughly 60% of consumers report reading GMB reviews.
In addition to maintaining your GMB listing, you need to consider other doctor and practice review platforms:
Maintain your profiles on these platforms and be sure to take note of any other review platforms where you or your practice are receiving reviews. It’s important to note that how you appear on these platforms doesn’t only impact your reputation with patients, but your reputation within your industry as well: the Journal of General Medicine published a study that found that over 50% of physicians also look at physician review websites.
Soliciting Patient Feedback and Reviews
One of the best ways to improve your online reviews is to actively solicit feedback from your patients. Treat every patient as a potential reviewer and remember that every patient’s experience can be valuable to your practice.
Consider implementing an internal survey to gauge patient satisfaction following their visit. If a patient has a positive experience, encourage them to leave a review of your practice - over 70% of people will write a review if actively prompted.
If a patient has a negative experience, do not actively provide the avenue to publish an online review - instead, acknowledge the patient’s experience, offer a solution when possible, and apply that feedback to the way your practice is run.
While tough feedback can be hard to handle, remember that all feedback can be an opportunity to grow and better serve your patients.
Responding to Reviews
People are over twice as likely to consider your practice when they see you actively responding to reviews - negative and positive.
For doctors, it is vital to keep in mind when responding to any patients online to avoid sharing any patient information that could violate privacy laws. According to Dr. Danika Brinda of Planet HIPAA, the best approach is to never confirm that the patient was seen by your practice. Instead, thank the patient for sharing feedback, and if necessary, invite further discussion in private.
When responding to positive reviews, thank the patient and leave an uplifting, professional response that shows your commitment to patient satisfaction. To avoid privacy issues, stay clear of phrases like, “It was great to see you,” or “Thank you for visiting our office.”
When responding to negative reviews, be sure to be calm and diplomatic. Again, do not ever respond in a way that can reveal private information about your patient. Generally, the best method is to apologize for their negative experience at your practice and provide an avenue where the reviewer can contact you privately so you can discuss specifics and remedy the situation.
While it may seem counterintuitive to give energy to negative reviews, the right response can neutralize a negative review, preventing it from further damaging your reputation. Remember to avoid responding with canned answers, as users pick up on recycled answers quickly, which can result in a negative impact on your reputation. Patients prefer visiting practices that demonstrate active engagement with online reviewers and unique, personal responses to the reviews.
Provide a Positive Experience
Healthcare is personal and, depending on the circumstances and the disposition of the patient, can be uncomfortable and nerve-wracking. Beyond providing quality healthcare, doing what you can to make it comfortable for your patients when they are at your practice can not only improve their experience but can grow your practice. In a recent study, nearly 50% of patients said that a positive online reputation can convince them to go out-of-network for treatment, valuing the quality of service over care affordability.
This does not only apply to appointments themselves. Patients leave reviews about their entire experience with a practice, not just with their doctor. Train every staff member in customer service best practices and make it company policy to follow these practices closely. Each phone call, front desk conversation, and nurse interaction should be handled with friendly, professional behavior.
Know When to Ask for Help
As a doctor, your priority is your patients. In some cases, you just won’t have the time to maintain a strong online presence. If you are building your online presence from scratch, contending with particularly biting reviews, or experiencing a reputation crisis, you may want to call a professional.
Reputation management firms like Status Labs can help you audit your online reputation, assess areas of opportunity and risk, and develop and execute a plan to help you represent yourself and your practice the way you want to be seen online.
Book a free consultation with Status Labs today to determine if we are the right fit for you.