Healthcare marketing doesn't have to be difficult.
This article is sixth is a series of blog articles produced by NueMD focused on healthcare marketing.
You've heard marketing your medical practice means more money, but you're busy providing patient care and navigating administrative burden. Luckily, medical marketing isn't a race. It's the small consistent strides that provide big returns down the line.
In this series, we discuss healthcare marketing tips for medical professionals who are understandably busy.
How to Market Your Practice Tip #6
Fuel your practice with online reviews.
According to a recent survey, 82% of patients evaluate physicians using online reviews. Whether you're a fan or not, online reviews are here to stay. In fact, 72% of patients say that reading online reviews is their first step towards finding a new doctor.
Patient-generated reviews not only inform your patient-base, they affect your web traffic. User-generated content is heavily weighted by search engines, making reviews extremely visible to people searching for your practice online.
If you haven't developed a strategy for online reviews, consider implementing one.
Don't sweat the negative reviews.
Online reviews are a valuable asset and have a measurable impact on business. According to ReviewTrackers, businesses experience a 9% increase in revenue with each additional star.
To harness the power of online reviews, it's important to understand that all patient reviews are valuable–even the bad ones.
Business owners don't have much say over what consumers can post about them thanks to the Consumer Review Fairness Act of 2016. Even if online reviews are out of your control, it's possible to change how you feel about them.
Unfortunately, some reviews are just plain mean. These salacious reviews often bring their own credibility into question. Consumers who use reviews to inform their buying decisions are used to seeing a mix of good and bad reviews. They can tell the difference between an angry rant and a balanced account.
In fact, negative reviews are valuable to businesses. They can help set expectations, build authenticity, and help patients comparison shop for options that best meet their individual needs.
Negative reviews are an opportunity to engage with patients and discover blind spots or shortcomings within your practice.
Encourage real reviews.
Once you accept the good with the bad, make it easy for patients to leave feedback.
If you want to solicit patient feedback yourself, don't make it awkward. Avoid asking patients for reviews directly. Instead, include references to reviews on business cards and in-office literature, so patients can find where to leave reviews on their own. Use an automated email service to set up a request for feedback. Be sure to change the review sites that you recommend periodically.
Never allow office staff, friends, or family to write glowing reviews. Review stuffing, when discovered, can have serious consequences on your reputation.
According to Vanguard Communications, fake reviews are easy to spot. They typically are long on adjectives and short on facts. Consumers are savvy and notice when a review sounds fake. Having several 5-star reviews may seem like a good strategy, but when reviews lack real information on patient experience they lose value and credibility.
Respond to reviews with care.
65% of patients feel it's important for doctors to post a response to a negative review, says Software Advice.
Responding to negative reviews may feel uncomfortable, but it demonstrates that you take complaints seriously. If one of your patients took the time to offer feedback, you should take the time to respond to legitimate concerns.
Keep in mind that you're not just responding to the patient who left the review. You're making a statement that web searchers and potential patients can read.
When responding to negative reviews, physicians and medical practices need to exercise more caution than the average retail business because of privacy laws dictated by HIPAA (in the US) and PIPEDA (in Canada):
Requesting reviews is generally not a violation of healthcare privacy laws–but if you're reaching out to patients via email or text to ask for reviews, do so only with patients who have agreed to receive communications from you (most intake paperwork includes this standard language).
You need to be very conscious of these laws when replying to reviews posted about you. In other businesses, it may be legal to respond to an inaccurate review by reporting the facts of what really happened. But you can't risk violating a patient's privacy by revealing anything about them or their care, so be prepared to bite your tongue if a patient reviews you negatively.
When responding to a negative review, keep it simple and professional. Thank the reviewer for their time. Offer the email address or phone number of someone they can speak to for assistance. Try to solve the issue offline.
Responding to negative reviews consistently will go a long way with potential patients who are looking to see how your practice responds to criticism.
Here are a few tips from Outbound Engine on responding to online reviews:
- Thank the reviewer for reaching out to you, even the worst of the worst.
- Don't lash out. Even if you're right, it won't end in your favor.
- Treat it like a face-to-face conversation. Use the same logic you would apply to an interaction in person.
- Work to find a resolve offline. A problem is more likely to escalate online and become more permanent.
- Don't respond while you're angry. It won't end well.
- Address legitimate concerns only. You can waste a lot of time on people who will never be happy. Issues that are within your control and are negative reflections on your business are worth addressing.
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