by adgrooms on December 7, 2019

Online reviews started making an appearance 20 years ago, and now they one of the biggest factors people consider in purchasing a product or service, medical services included. One study found that 86% of consumers read reviews for local businesses (including 95% of people aged 18-34) Anyone can go online and run a search to find reviews from multiple sites about institutions and providers. Like a person standing on a soapbox in front of your business shouting praises while another shouts criticism, good or bad, online reviews are there for everyone to see.

Some people will post honest reviews that are beneficial to the community that is seeking services. They can also be beneficial to the provider and institution, not just for attracting business, but to get the perspective of the patient. The problem with reviews is that anyone can publish a review saying almost anything without repercussions. Reviews can be driven by emotional reaction, especially if a patient's desired outcome, in their perspective, was not attained.

How does one deal with online reviews?

1. Take a hands-off approach.

Healthcare providers generally have their plates full. Sixty plus hours per week leaves little time to read reviews. It could be seen as one more thing to worry about that is a low priority in the overall picture. There is always the hope that people reading the reviews can discern between the useful ones and the ones that shouldn't be taken seriously. It is definitely the easiest option, but it could be beneficial to occasionally read and check on the patient perspective.

2. Monitor them yourself.

There are several sites now where a patient can post a review. The most prominent is Google. Every time someone searches for a business, the listing has a google review right at the top. Google also includes other reviews from the web from the most prominent review websites. (Looking specifically at my PCP, I see 4 reviews in the Google listing.) Google is free for a provider to engage with reviewers, but some of the other review sites are pay to play. Engagement directly with the review also requires careful consideration of the tone of the response as well as care not to divulge PHI, breaking HIPAA/privacy laws. If there is a bad review, engaging the patient with a simple, sincere apology and corrective offer can heal the relationship and even make it stronger. You could also take the response offline and contact the patient directly to try to resolve their complaint in hopes that they would revise or remove their review. There is software that can help manage and reply to reviews, which can be helpful if you have a lot of review activity and want to keep close tabs on it. While this approach can become time-consuming, interaction can help build trust with current and future patients.

3. Hire a reputation manager.

There are marketing agencies that can help to create and manage a positive online presence. They can advise on how to attain positive reviews and respond quickly and professionally to bad ones. They can also include services that improve your visibility when people search for your services, also known as search engine optimization or SEO. They could also help set up in-house reviews that you send to patients after their visit. These could be put up on a practice website with the patient's permission. Hiring someone carries a price tag, but it may be worth it to have hands-off, professionally managed reviews that could be integrated into a larger marketing plan

Reviews will continue to be a popular method for patients to research and find a provider. What method do you use to approach reviews?