Public image and reputation in healthcare have never been so important. Competition in the sector is fierce and visibility is high. Patient experiences and satisfaction scores are more visible than ever through online review sites, and social media means news now travels at lightning speed. Reputation can be damaged in a matter of minutes.
Consumers are picky and many use review sites when choosing a healthcare provider, so healthy online reviews really do matter. A survey by Software Advice found that almost three-quarters (71%) of patients use online reviews as the very first step to finding a new doctor.
So, what can you do to improve reviews and build your online reputation? It’s this, after all, that will attract new patients and foster success. Great reviews are dependent on two key things. Most important is patient satisfaction. The second is encouraging patients to write about their positive experiences.
This blog looks at the role of patient engagement in building a positive reputation and how to mitigate reputational risk.
Online reputation management and patient engagement
In our digital age, a strong online reputation is one of the most valuable long-term assets a healthcare provider can have. Unsurprisingly, providers with good reviews and a well-maintained digital presence attract more new patients than those without these particulars. To manage reputation, providers must engage with existing patients through surveys, and also monitor and respond to online reviews.
The starting point is driving reviews, both to your website and to online review sites, such as Google Business Profile, Yelp, and Meta (Facebook). This goes hand in hand with improving review response rates and making the most of good reviews. Great testimonials are an endorsement of the quality of your services.
So, where does patient engagement fit in?
Great reviews are directly correlated with patient satisfaction and health outcomes. A growing body of evidence demonstrates that patients who are more actively involved in their health care experience better health outcomes. Patient engagement is at the heart of this.
And the biggest driver of patient satisfaction is patient wait times. A study of 44 ambulatory clinics using data from 11,352 survey responses concluded that patient experience is heavily influenced by time spent waiting for provider care.
Patient experience provides the context for reviews. It’s this rich data that informs consumers. Improving patient wait times and operational clinic flow is dependent on understanding pinch points and engaging with patients in meaningful ways to discover ways to improve.
Dealing with bad reviews
Even the best healthcare providers aren’t immune to the odd poor review. It’s inevitable that things go wrong from time to time. As poet John Lydgate once said, “You can’t please all of the people all of the time!” The important thing about reputation management is knowing how to repair it when something goes wrong. This isn’t about burying a bad review but instead responding appropriately.
Potential new patients will discount one poor review if it is amongst a plethora of good ones. Managing poor reviews with thoughtful, speedy responses can serve as an advert for how serious you are about resolving problems and complaints.
Your immediate response on a less than glowing review should be: “We’re really sorry, patient satisfaction is our number one priority. We’re going to give you a call and help resolve this.”
Showing that you care and that you are keen to resolve issues will go some way towards mitigating damage. People reading the bad reviews will read your response too. People may be put off by a poor review, but they may also be persuaded to overlook it by your response.
Responding to reviews is all part of patient engagement. A poor review should be viewed as an opportunity to engage with patients and improve.
Reviews can also help to monitor problems arising. What if all the bad reviews are around one physician or a certain facility? These provide an opportunity to step in.
Bad reviews can also be unfortunate. Perhaps a patient had to wait because of an emergency or staff sickness, or they were unhappy with their treatment or diagnosis (and remember subjective feedback doesn’t necessarily mean a provider has done wrong). Just a small slip-up in the patient journey could prompt a bad review. Inaccurate listings can also lead to bad experiences – a wrong digit on a phone number, for example, or a small mistake in an address.
Providers should be mining review content for insights into how to improve patient experience. This is the way to build reputation. There is software that can help providers do this.
PatientTrak’s reputation management software categorizes and filters feedback, and alerts providers when they get hit with a poor review – filters, for example, can be set to send an alert for Google reviews with 2 stars or less. Using PatientTrak’s software, providers can set criteria and use review diagnostics to respond quickly to bad reviews, and make the most of good ones by sharing them straight to social media channels.
The key to dealing with bad reviews is to act fast, respond appropriately, and fix problems before they get any worse.
Reviews build trust and loyalty
According to software developer, Hubspot, customer trust in businesses is fading. The healthcare sector needs to recognize this as ‘customers’ are consumers of healthcare too. Building trust, loyalty, and a good reputation is no longer a nice-to-have, it’s essential.
It’s a well-known fact that customers trust recommendations from friends and family over online marketing and advertising. But people trust online reviews too (85% of consumers trust online reviews says a survey by BrightLocal). Hubspot’s own research found that 60% of consumers believed customer reviews were either trustworthy or very trustworthy.
So how do you get hundreds of good reviews? There are two key requirements. Firstly, services need to be good enough for patients to shout about them. Secondly, your patients need to be motivated to write the reviews.
Text messaging in healthcare, a communication channel preferred by patients, is being used effectively to prompt patient reviews.
Texts keep patients updated with information, remind them about upcoming appointments, act as medication reminders, share information about new services, and even help to manage patient flow, for example, letting patients know when they are ready to be seen via a virtual waiting room. Now, as a patient leaves a healthcare facility, an automated text prompts them to leave a review and/or complete a satisfaction survey.
Reputation management isn’t simply about keeping bad reviews at bay. Rather, it is a complex web of patient satisfaction, engagement, feedback, and action. It gives healthcare providers a roadmap for driving brand value, enhancing patient experiences, and improving health outcomes.
PatientTrak provides patient satisfaction solutions that seamlessly integrate with EHRs improving staff efficiency and patient flow for arrival, engagement, healthcare delivery, social distancing, and online scheduling as well as post-visit through surveys and reputation management. Call now to reduce wait times, increase patient satisfaction, and take control of your reputation.
Patients want a provider they can trust and depend on when they need it most.