Now that most marketing takes place online, physicians across medical specialties typically have their practices listed on various online business directories, healthcare platforms, and within Google’s business listings. Many of these sites offer former and current patients the ability to leave physician reviews and star ratings to describe their experiences.
It always feels good to get a 5-star rating, but patient reviews can also be unpredictable. It’s impossible to please everyone, and the longer you’re a practicing physician, the more likely it is that you’ll end up with a few disgruntled patients along the way.
But how much do good and bad reviews really matter? Well, a lot.
Even several years ago, 90% of people used reviews to help them decide whether or not to visit a business. 94% have been influenced to avoid a business after reading a bad review. This isn’t just for retail businesses—it applies to medical care as well.
Here’s why you need to pay attention to your online reviews and reputation.
Reviews Help Patients Feel Comfortable & Confident
Healthcare is an industry requiring an extremely high level of trust. A patient needs to feel secure in their doctor’s credentials, skills, and ethics before agreeing to undergo a procedure. Medical procedures are expensive and often risky, so patients want to have peace of mind that they are being set up for success.
When you go to a store and buy something, there’s always a chance it won’t work, but the worst possible consequence is probably a simple disappointment. When someone visits a surgeon and something goes wrong, however, it could cost them their appearance, health, or even their life.
It’s understandable that most people are a little anxious about choosing the right physician and want to do their research before setting up a consultation. No one wants to spend thousands of dollars only to be disappointed, or worse. Understanding this should provide some perspective on why reviews are so important.
You know what you have to offer your patients, but unless they can verify that others have had good experiences, a prospective patient might be nervous about working with you. A solid portfolio of online reviews will go a long way toward helping them feel comfortable and confident.
For Prospective Patients, Reviews Paint a Picture
Reviews are only part of the picture, but they represent reality for prospective patients. Word-of-mouth marketing has always been important for businesses, and online reviews are just the latest form of powerful social endorsement.
Many people trust online reviews even more than recommendations from friends and family. An NRC health report even found that patients tend to trust online reviews more than recommendations from their own doctors! The report also showed that the online reputation of a medical group was important to 34.7% of patients, which was the highest percentage of any industry.
Prospective patients will read reviews and immediately start forming assumptions about what it’s like to visit your practice and work with you. They are highly likely to make their initial decisions based on reviews, especially if there are many physicians in the area to choose from.
The Problem With Reviews
Even though patients see reviews as reality, that’s not always the case. Unfortunately, public review sites make it very easy for former patients to leave poor reviews, regardless of context.
Many physicians have experienced the consequences of a bad review, despite providing quality care. Additionally, reviews are not necessarily the best measure of quality when it comes to choosing a physician.
Still, with the amount of weight prospective patients place on reviews, doctors need to make an effort to build a stellar online reputation. The number of reviews, and the quality of those reviews, matters a lot in earning the trust of new patients. Your practice needs a consistent influx of new, positive, high-quality reviews to become the go-to in your specialty.
How Much Control Do You Have Over Reviews?
Most physicians get frustrated when they receive a poor review. That’s understandable, especially if the reviewer makes untrue or unfair comments without context. However, reviews are an important part of the vetting process for patients and are necessary to help doctors build a great reputation.
The point of reviews is that they’re “objective.” Unlike most marketing activities, which involve a carefully crafted message and complete control over the content posted online, reviews aren’t supposed to be influenced by the business itself.
In reality, there are ways to encourage happy patients to leave great reviews. The reviews themselves are authentic, but very few people will leave a review if they aren’t asked or reminded to do so. Unhappy clients will sometimes vent their frustrations, but it is also sometimes possible to turn someone’s bad experience into a good one by going the extra mile.
You don’t have direct control over reviews of your practice. But if you focus on encouraging patients to leave good reviews and minimize situations that could lead to a bad review, you’ll be able to have some control over your online reputation.
Building an Online Reputation: A Critical Marketing Activity
Many physicians think of reviews as something they don’t need to think much about. They might worry if a bad review comes in or feel good if a favorite patient leaves a glowing comment, but they don’t think about reviews in the larger context of online reputation. This is a common mistake.
Your online reputation is important. Prospective patients will decide whether or not to contact you based on what they see online. The good news is that you have more control over your reputation than you think, even if you already have some bad reviews.
In addition to providing top-notch medical care and customer service, working with an experienced reputation management company can make a big difference in the number of positive reviews you get.
To learn more about how reputation management can help boost your marketing strategy, reach out to Surgeon’s Advisor. We offer free audits and have the experience to help you execute this critical marketing strategy. Call 305.763.8011 to speak with our marketing experts today!