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Op-Ed: Reputation management for healthcare providers

by Narina Kasabova, PriceWeber

Much of the chatter in healthcare marketing this year revolves around improved patient experience. Of course, this is excellent for patient retention, but it should also be an advantage for attracting new patients. However, if you invest in improving your experience and prospective patients don’t know, you may miss out on those benefits. This is where reviews and reputation management come in. According to recent surveys, as many as 90% of Americans rely on online reviews when choosing a healthcare provider and 73% of patients say a minimum rating of four stars and up is necessary to consider a facility or physician.

Patient experience extends beyond the quality of clinical care – it’s a process that begins online from the moment someone searches for a provider. With most patients relying on user-generated ratings when making a healthcare decision, having a strong online presence is increasingly important. While other factors like insurance and location also play a role in the decision-making process, a recent survey found that 47% of patients would go out-of-network for a similar doctor with better online reviews.

Developing a strong public perception starts with taking ownership of your online reputation. This includes managing reviews, social media, and Google search results. Whether you’re a small medical practice or a regional hospital group, you can implement an effective reputation management strategy following these guidelines:

Tips for managing your online reputation

  • Claim all your online listings, like Google My Business, Yelp, Healthgrades, Vitals and Facebook. This is a critical step to ensure prospective patients have accurate information. It also prevents others from claiming your profile.
  • Make sure your business hours are up to date. Include a description of your medical background and highlight your specialty. Keep target search terms in mind when setting up your description. Be as specific as possible – don’t categorize yourself as a “doctor” if you are a podiatrist. This will ensure you appear in online searches for “podiatrist near me.”
  • Ask for reviews. Asking for feedback unlocks that silent majority of patients who had a great experience but wouldn’t otherwise have written a review. To prospective patients searching for a provider, recently published reviews show that you’re actively engaging with your customers. More importantly, as a provider, you should use that feedback to improve the patient experience.
  • Respond to reviews to let them know you’re listening. This demonstrates your commitment to patient experience.
    • Of course, HIPAA regulations apply to online interactions, so make sure that the team managing social media understands the requirements for maintaining compliance.
  • SEO on Google (and increasingly Bing) is an important factor. The higher your business ranks in the search results, the easier it is for people to find you. Review volume has a significant impact on a location’s search rankings. Newer reviews also help increase search rankings.
  • Build and maintain a modern, responsive website. Be sure to highlight your positive feedback and include (anonymous) patient testimonials.
    • Always ask permission before republishing positive online reviews from a consumer review platform to your site.
  • Optimize your social media presence. A successful social media presence will create opportunities to engage with patients and increase your overall visibility within the community.
  • Add professional-quality photos to your listings and website. Your images, especially headshots, convey the standard of excellence your practice provides.
  • Develop a crisis management plan. It’s difficult to respond to a shift in public perception without a plan. Proactive steps include appointing a crisis management team and implementing an action plan that accounts for all areas of your business.

Healthcare businesses across the country are working to improve their patient experience to attract patients and procedures that will help them grow, potentially at the expense of their competitors. Practitioners who have their online reputation in shape will immediately have the advantage in this challenging environment.

Narina Kasabova is an account manager at PriceWeber with over eight years of experience in digital healthcare marketing for brands like Humana, Springstone (mental health) and BrightSpring Health Services.

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