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How Online Reviews Can Get You More Patients

By Marc Apple   ●    January 27, 2022   ●   6 min read

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    TL;DR With 71% of patients consulting online reviews when choosing healthcare providers, managing a medical practice's online presence and actively engaging with reviews on platforms like Google Business Profile is essential.

    How Online Reviews Can Attract More New Patients To Your Medical Practice

    In 2013, it seemed that hardly any patients were relying on review sites as part of their process to select their next physician or healthcare provider.

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    71% of patients reported turning to a review site as their first step in finding a new doctor.

    What a difference seven years can make!  By 2020, nearly 71% of patients reported turning to a review site as their first step in finding a new doctor.

    Yet, many physicians and other healthcare providers still have a lot of trepidation about the online review process and fear that negative reviews can hurt their online reputation and ability to attract new patients to their practice.

    But the reality is, negative reviews are rarer than you think.

    And encouraging reviews from current patients is a significant way providers can attract new patients.

    Do Reviews Improve Your Practice’s Organic Ranking?

    Google’s “rich results” that shows the practice’s aggregate stars definitely seems to suggest that reviews increase organic ranking for web pages, but Google’s John Mueller says that for web results reviews are not a ranking signal

    Where reviews do come into play is on the Google My Business side of things.  The number of reviews and the overall review score does influence your local SEO ranking.

    With nearly 37% of patients relying on Google reviews over industry specific review sites like Healthgrades, every medical practice should be claiming and optimizing its Google My Business listing and implementing a strategy to collect and respond to reviews.

    There Are So Many Places Patients Can Leave Reviews And Find Reviews Online

    In addition to claiming your Google Business Profile listing, healthcare providers and clinics should claim all their potential listings on sites as diverse as industry-based platforms like HealthGrades, Wellness.com, RateMDs as well as more social sites like Yelp and Facebook.

    Because whether you are currently monitoring these sites or not, potential patients are relying on the information they find there. And what they find is influencing their decision about whether to utilize your services and treatment options.

    It may seem odd that patients will search for or leave reviews for you beside a review of their favorite restaurant, but the truth is, patients use non-industry platforms because they are used to the interface and feel comfortable on those sites.

    Why You Need To Claim All Your Listings Online

    Most of the platforms “scrape” information from national registries and local medical boards, so it’s a best practice to ensure everything is accurate, consistent, and up to date.  Make sure your practice name is displayed correctly and that your name, address, and phone number are consistent across all listings, so you get the benefit of improved search engine ranking.

    You want all these sites and reviews being shown to potential patients while they are actively searching for a new provider.

    When claiming your listings – regardless of platform – be sure to include as much patient focused information as you can to contribute positively to their decision-making process.

    • Professional headshots of providers
    • Contact information and hours of operation
    • Accepted insurance
    • Specialties of providers and conditions treated
    • Telemedicine options or other communication methods
    • Online scheduling

    Make it simple for patients to connect with you from review sites whenever possible.

    Having your listings completed and patient focused sets the tone for your online reputation and makes a great first impression with patients searching for a new provider.

    It also signals that you take patient feedback seriously.

    Build Trust Through Transparency

    Another way to attract patients using reviews is to showcase reviews directly on your medical practice website.  This lets potential patients know you have nothing to hide.

    Person rating services online, laptop displaying 4.5 stars.

    Let patients know you are proud of the level of care you provide your patients.

    Trust signals, like sharing reviews on your homepage, lets patients know you are proud of the level of care you provide your patients.  And repetition is a powerful tool to persuade patients to select your practice over another that doesn’t have adequate reviews.

    By displaying your reviews, you show your office’s willingness to address concerns and implement processes to improve the patient experience.   This earns you goodwill and you’ll enjoy a better online and professional reputation in your community.

    A Quick Way To Get More Reviews

    Consider adding a post visit workflow that encourages patients to leave reviews.  The more reviews you have, the easier it is to benefit from the law of averages (and to minimize the impact of the inevitable lower ratings).

    Make it easy for patients to review you on your Google Business Profile to improve your local SEO. This will also put reviews where over a third of potential patients are actually looking.

    How Reviews Can Help You Improve The Patient Experience

    By committing less than 15 minutes a week to evaluating your online reviews, you can improve your online reputation and decrease the impact of negative reviews.  With most industry platforms focusing not on clinical outcomes but instead on patient experience, taking time to look for patterns in your reviews can help you or your practice manager improve staff processes that ultimately will improve your ratings.

    Especially monitor reviews for indications of issues in the patient experience related to:

    • Delivery of care
    • Quality of care
    • Administrative policies

    As you know, a patient’s experience extends beyond the exam room.  Taking steps to improve the overall impression of your practice – from the parking lot to check out – can increase patient retention and referrals while attracting new patients to your practice.

    Reviews can help guide administrative improvements and set practice KPIs for better patient experience and could help you retain younger patients.

    Take comfort in the fact that the majority of reviews will be positive or neutral.  And disgruntled patients who leave very overly negative reviews typically do not leave “helpful” details so other potential patients don’t give those reviews as much weight.

    66% of respondents in a recent survey wanted their issues addressed publicly.

    But, patients actually expect a response to a review.  Nearly 66% of respondents in a recent survey wanted their issues addressed publicly, so it is good business to have a protocol to respond to reviews left by both satisfied and unsatisfied patients.

    How To Respond To Negative Reviews Online

    When you respond to reviews online, take a moment to gather your thoughts before replying.  Over half of patients who leave reviews consider it very important to get a response that explains the provider’s side of the story…but without revealing any sensitive or HIPAA protected information.

    When you, or a trusted practice employee, responds to reviews, don’t fall into the trap of refuting every detail of the review.  Look for what triggered the negative event, acknowledge it, and offer a solution or explain how things will be done in the future to minimize a recurrence of the situation.

    Never make offers of compensation or ask for the removal of a review. 

    If you suspect a review is fake, you can request the platform remove it according to their guidelines.

    It’s critical to remember the response you leave isn’t for the patient you are responding directly to as much as it is to signal your level of engagement and willingness to listen to and address patient concerns.

    How You Manage Online Reviews Can Attract New Patients And Retain Current Ones

    In a few short years, online reviews went from playing a small role in provider selection to being one to the primary ways potential patients select a new doctor.

    Concerns about the effect of negative reviews on your practice’s growth are largely unfounded and patients seem to be able to see through overly negative or hostile reviews.

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    Nearly two-thirds of patients who leave a review expect a response.

    Practices should look at evaluating reviews as not only part of the new patient acquisition process, but also as a valuable tool for improving the overall patient experience.

    Having a great online review strategy for your medical office will result in healthy year over year growth by consistently attracting new patients to your clinic as well as helping you to retain patients in key demographic groups.

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    Article By

    Marc Apple
    Strategist

    Marc is the founder of Forward Push, a marketing agency that helps busy professionals with creative, research-driven marketing. He has successfully helped healthcare practices increase their patient count and revenue through tailored marketing strategies. Marc excels at understanding and solving marketing challenges. He is available to discuss healthcare marketing strategies, music, and BBQ.