Let’s face it, existing and prospective patients use search engines for everything! Almost everyone performs extensive online research before making purchasing decisions. This makes online reputation management absolutely critical to physician practices. Some doctors believe there is a need to be active on social media to engage patients and respond to patient feedback. While there are some conversations occurring on social media that physicians would benefit from being involved in, my observation is that a majority of physician feedback is on the numerous ratings and review sites- far more than anything happening on social media. Sites like Healthgrades.com, Vitals.com, Ratemds.com, etc. are capturing the sentiments of patients more and more, and new sites are popping up every week. The growing number of rating sites and the strength of those sites in search engine rankings make it imperative to engage in reputation management.
Physicians can reap valuable benefits from managing their online reputation, including having a good understanding how they are perceived when someone searches their name online. Additional benefits include:
Obtaining New Patients – Either after searching for a new physician or researching options after they have selected the available physicians through their insurance plan, prospective patients are going to search online to see what patients are saying about that doctor. If they find negative reviews on several sites with a similar theme, then it is likely the prospect will keep searching. The difficult and frustrating aspect of the prospect seeing those negative reviews and choosing another physician is that most doctors will never know about. It is tough to quantify, but there is absolutely a financial impact to a negative online reputation due potential patient loss and even patient attrition. Prospects are more likely to choose you as a physician if they read several positive comments online. This is social proof that others have had a good experience and they can reasonably expect the same.
Customer Retention – How often do you think current patients Google a physician’s name just to get directions or a phone number? A Lot! When they perform this search for contact information, they will also see all of the ratings and review sites that rank highly for the physician name. If the reviews are negative, some patients will choose to look for a new physician. This is especially true if their own experiences with that physician were average or disappointing. By managing a physician’s online reputation, rejection from prospective patients and skepticism in existing patients can be reduced.
Reduces Fabricated Problems – Is it possible that a patient could read a negative review online which causes them to develop hypersensitivity and over analyze aspects of their office visit? Absolutely! This includes wait time, administrative and support staff, physician interaction, insurance reimbursement, etc. An negative online reputation that is not managed can prompt patients to take to the internet to share their negative reality even if it is not accurate or true. Managing the physician’s existing online reputation reduces undue scrutiny physicians face when patients begin looking for previously reported issues where they may not exist.
Maintain Brand Perception – If asked, there are few things more important to a physician than their reputation and brand, and understandably so. After all of those years of education and the work put into establishing a practice, it is infuriating to think that a handful of patients can so easily and significantly impact a physician’s good reputation. Unfortunately, this is exactly what is happening every day. Patients that had negative experiences several years ago are leaving reviews on multiple sites which creates an unfavorable online reputation. By monitoring and managing online reputations, this can be prevented or at least minimized.
Increased Revenue – The real impact of prospects and existing patients choosing another physician is revenue. The lost revenue is not just one visit, but multiple visits over many years of service. It is likely that once a patient is lost, that patient has been lost for life. The benefits of the relative small cost of online reputation management far outweigh the negative financial impact of lost patients from a negative reputation.
Online reputation management will increase in importance as search engine usage and internet usage continues to increase. The effects of not managing your online reputation are real and tangible. What are some of other benefits on online reputation management?