Why Online Patient Reviews Are Important
Historically, doctors have relied on word of mouth or referral networks to acquire more patients. Now, more and more patients are researching and choosing healthcare providers via online searches. Therefore, having a strong online presence is critical to doctors’ marketing success and practice growth.
For many patients, the internet is the first step in researching or selecting a healthcare provider. Patients want to make an informed decision and do their due diligence.
Imagine you’re a patient and you’re new to the city. If you were looking for an orthopedic surgeon, your first step may be to open the web browser and Google “Best orthopedic surgeon near me.”
You’ll see a list of the top-rated surgeons in your area, and you’ll start reading through their profiles.
As you’re reading, you’ll be looking for things like:
- How many reviews does this surgeon have?
- Have previous patients rated them highly?
- What do other patients have to say?
Alternatively, you may have received a referral from your internist. If a doctor gave you one or two names, your next step might be to Google those doctors and read their online reviews. What are their patients saying about them online? Should I feel comfortable or confident booking an appointment?
Having an abundance of positive online reviews gives patients the confidence to book an appointment. Having an abundance of negative online reviews scares new patients away (and this happens all the time).
Building and maintaining your online reputation has never been more important for physicians. After all, doctors spend years building their reputation and it only takes one disgruntled patient to write a scathing online review.
How to Ask Patients For Online Reviews
Asking patients for reviews does not have to be daunting, it’s important to first claim and optimize your listings, particularly Google My Business, Healthgrades, Vitals, Facebook, and Yelp. Then find a patient satisfaction survey tool, such as rater8, that integrates with your practice management system to automate the review solicitation. With rater8, once patients check out from their appointment, they’ll receive an automated message asking them to rate their experience with the doctor. It’s important to build your online reviews in parallel, focusing on the review sites which need the most help.
There are many ways doctors and practice administrators ask their patients for online reviews. But some methods are less effective and more costly than others. We’ve spoken to a number of practices and below are a few methods they’ve used to ask patients to build their online reviews (before rater8). We’ll also explain the pros and cons of each approach.
Sending postcards is time-consuming and postcards/postage is expensive. The other drawback with this approach is that the feedback is not immediate. You want to catch the patient as soon as they leave the office. This is when happy patients feel most generous. Snail mail can be slow. With post-cards, you can include the review URL but it’s a hassle for patients to type this out in their browser. Asking patients for reviews should be more efficient.
Personally asking patients:
Asking the patient at the end of an appointment to leave an online review is one more thing a doctor shouldn’t have to worry about. Doctors need to focus their time and energy on providing the best care possible. The goal is to make the doctors’ lives easier – not give them more work. The one and only positive of this approach are that doctors can generally tell which reviews are happy vs. unhappy.
Printing on appointment reminders or take-home instructions:
This approach is better than mailing postcards since it’s more immediate. The problem with this approach is that you don’t simply want to remind patients to leave you a review. Instead, you want to lead the patient directly to the doctor’s review profile. Otherwise, the patient will have to search for the doctor online and it’s putting more work on the patient’s shoulders.
Soliciting Online Reviews from the Practice Website:
Many practices will solicit online reviews directly from their website. At rater8, we think it’s important to highlight positive reviews from real patients on the website. But it’s less effective to ask for reviews from the website. Why? Because most patients visit the website before, not after, their appointment. The reason why most people visit the doctor’s website is to seek directions, read reviews, research their background, etc. ahead of their appointment.
Many doctors and dentists use an automated phone calling system to remind patients about their upcoming appointment. The same technology and process can be applied to solicit online reviews. The con is that automated phone calls don’t seem very personal. Manually calling everyone is more personal but it takes a lot more time and it can be fairly intrusive to call people in the middle of the workday. With this approach, you can ask to leave a review on Healthgrades, but without providing the patient with the URL, it’s not going to be very effective. When soliciting online reviews, you want to lead the patient directly to the review site, making it as easy and seamless as possible.
Medical practices have started to place QR codes in their waiting room. When patients scan the QR code with their smartphone, they’re taken directly to the doctor’s online review profile. This is a great way to solicit online reviews because it’s quick, easy, and convenient for patients. The patient doesn’t have to type in any URL or search for the doctor online. There are some cons to this method, however. QR codes can only direct you to one single page/profile, and although this may be great to build online reviews for your practice, you won’t be able to build online reviews for the individual doctors. Additionally, not everyone has a smartphone and not everyone knows how to use a QR code so you may be missing out on a lot of great reviews.
Some doctors let their reviews build organically. Neglecting your online reviews is likely costing you patients and making it easier for your competitors down the street to outshine you online.
The best way to ask patients for online reviews is through a review platform like rater8. With rater8, practices can send text or email reminders to patients right after their appointment, making it easy for patients to leave a review. And since the reminders are sent through rater8, practices can be sure that the reviews are coming from real patients.
Now that you understand ways NOT to ask patients for reviews, let’s look at five simple (yet effective) guidelines to boost your online reviews and ratings.
1. Automate, automate, automate.
Verbally asking patients for reviews at the end of each appointment is burdensome. It’s one extra thing a doctor shouldn’t have to worry about. In reality, a doctor should be focused on delivering quality care. Some medical practices hand out “review cards” but it’s inefficient because the patient has to pull up their phone or laptop and navigate to the review site themselves. You want to automate this process and make it as simple and seamless as possible for every patient.
Solution: rater8 integrates with your practice management solution and automates your reputation management 100%. Patients receive an automated text or email asking them to rate their experience with the physician within minutes of checkout. Once rater8 is set up, it simply works.
2. Capture patient feedback in real-time.
When asking patients for reviews, it is important to “strike while the iron is hot” and request feedback on the same day. If patients have had a good experience, they are more inclined to share that positive feedback while it’s fresh on their minds. Asking for feedback too late (even just a week or two later) runs the risk of the patient forgetting their experience or, worse, their positive review getting overshadowed by a negative one.
Solution: rater8’s platform is designed to capture feedback in real-time. As soon as a patient checks out, they receive a text or email asking them to rate their experience. This way, you can be sure that you’re getting feedback when it’s most valuable – right after the patient’s appointment. This time delay is easily configured.
It’s also important not to burden your patients and ask too many times for a survey.
3. Actively monitor your reviews.
Designate someone in the practice to keep track of when any new reviews come in. This person can also be responsible for responding to any negative reviews in a timely manner. By actively monitoring your online reviews, you can take control of your online reputation and ensure that patients are seeing the best version of your practice.
Solution: rater8 also sends low-rating alerts for the internal surveys so practice administrators can proactively address patient concerns or issues as they arise. This simplifies and automates that online monitoring. Additionally, rater8 helps you claim your listings so you’ll be notified when any reviews or questions appear.
4. Focus on areas where you need the most help.
Are your Google Reviews strong but your Healthgrades is lacking? If so, focus on building your reviews where needed most. When it comes to healthcare reputation management, each doctor will have different needs and requirements.
Keep in mind, that online reviews are important for both patients and payers. In fact, nearly 8 in 10 patients say online reviews influence their choice of doctor. And according to a study by the American College of Healthcare Executives, 56% of hospitals said that online ratings and reviews will be “extremely important” to their organization in the next five years.
Solution: rater8’s flagship product is pollin8 which allows you to “pollinate” all of the different review sites in parallel. With pollin8, you choose where you wish to direct your patients and build online reviews. This means you can send 50% of your patients to one platform (e.g., Google), 30% to another (Healthgrades), and 20% to a third (Vitals). This is easily configurable within rater8.
5. Claim and optimize your listings.
By claiming your listing, you will have the ability to edit and optimize your listing. There are many ways to optimize your listing, including adding professional headshots, hours, specific categories (don’t list yourself as a doctor. Be more specific!), and SEO-optimized descriptions.
Additionally, you can also answer frequently asked questions, which is a great way to show off your knowledge and expertise. These FAQs will appear right on your listing, making it easy for patients to find the information they need.
Finally, you can also add videos, photos, and patient testimonials to your listing. These are all great ways to show off your practice in a positive light and attract more patients online.
Solution: Claiming your listings can be burdensome. As a certified Google My Business Partner, we have the tools to help you efficiently claim and manage your individual doctors and location listings so you don’t have to worry about it.
Requesting online reviews from patients doesn’t have to be complicated or time-consuming. Automate the process with rater8 and see how easy it is to boost your online reputation and attract more patients online. Request a demo today.