How to Grow a Medical Practice and Create Your Online Reputation

A passionate belief in your business and personal objectives can make all the difference between success and failure. If you aren’t proud of what you’re doing, why should anybody else be? Richard Branson

With the power of social media and online forums, consumer now a days can rate everything. Be it books,salons, hotels or doctors.

While a coffee shop review mostly focuses on taste of coffee and ambiance, cosmetic surgery clinics are often rated on subjective issues like waiting times, scheduling snafus, décor, fees, and bedside manner, often more than the results and outcomes of treatments and services.

The landscape of aesthetic medicine has changed radically. Patients are more plugged in and command a high level of electronic connectivity from their healthcare providers. Aesthetic patients are also more demanding, have high expectations, and all too frequently change their doctors and go clinic shopping, for many reasons, including better service, lower costs, location, likeability, long wait times, billing errors, and staff changes.

Without a doubt, the decks are stacked against practitioners because they are greatly limited in how they can respond to public posts. Online interactions with patients about their medical treatment and care in your clinic, such as e-mail exchanges, are widely accepted. However, these conversations should never occur on a social networking platform or an open forum.

Here is a complete guide on How to Grow a Medical Practice and Create Your Online Reputation.

 

Monitoring Your Brand Online

Relying solely on word-of-mouth marketing just will not cut it anymore. You need to reach new patients where they are. Review and rating sites rely on public information to populate their profiles, and your profile will exist whether you initiate it or not. That is why building a brand and monitoring it online is a crucial factor in today’s world. In fact, you need to be vigilant because in many cases, public information is wrong or outdated, and the range of possible errors is vast. Your clinic may be mislabeled or categorized incorrectly, the name may be spelled wrong, qualifications may be incorrect, and even the location may be wrong. All of these errors can result in lost patients and a slump in revenue through no fault of your own.

7 ESSENTIAL STEPS TO CHECK YOUR ONLINE REPUTATION

1. Find and own your online listings on all relevant top rating and review sites within and outside of your market.

2. Update and complete all your online listings and assign someone on staff to repeat this exercise every 3–6 months.

3. Become an active participant in the rating and review process.

4. Set up Google and Yahoo! alerts for your name and clinic names, including obvious misspelled versions to monitor the web for unflattering posts and mentions.

5. Be proactive about engaging with patients to encourage them to post reviews on the sites that matter to your practice.

6. Take good care of patients and resolve conflicts early.

7. If or when they arise, try to bury negative comments with positive content so that these posts are not the first thing that comes up.


 

Updating Online Listings

Most rating and review sites allow you to claim your information and make updates. Hunt down every listing that you can. You want all the information about your practice to be as accurate and up to date as possible. Whenever possible, add hyperlinks to your clinic website and social pages. Some sites require the physician to approve any changes and may even ask for your license number to verify your identity.

Having accurate listings does several important things for your clinic. It helps improve your website’s ranking on search engines and increases the prominence of your placement in online searches. It also allows you to monitor what is being said about your practice so that you can respond or mitigate any negative comments.

The process of owning your listings will take some work in the beginning, but it will be worth it when your online reputation improves and new patients contact you for an appointment.

Another tactic is to look into patient communities that include listings of clinics and practitioners who see patients for specific conditions. For example, if you are a dermatologist or specialize in skin treatments, you may look at listing your practice on local, regional, or national resources for patients with common skin-related conditions like acne, rosacea, hair loss, and psoriasis.

ONLINE REPUTATION CHECKLIST

1. Assign a staff member to manage the process and work with your web team for external support as needed.

2. List all the relevant sites and platforms that apply to your clinic.

3. Conduct a Google search at specific intervals using your name, the names of all the practitioners in your clinic, and the clinic’s name.

4. Return to each site periodically after submitting updates to make sure that your changes have been made.

5. Set a regular date on your calendar to check back for new reviews and ratings (monthly or biweekly).

6. Look into directories, medical societies, and patient communities to make sure you have a listing in relevant platforms and that it is up to date.


 

Ratings and Reviews

A decade or so ago, one unhappy patient might tell a few of his/her friends about his/her doctor or complain about a less than perfect experience. Today, one unhappy patient can literally broadcast his/her displeasure to all of his/her fans and followers in a matter of seconds, and that can spread like flesh-eating bacteria all over the planet. Those fans and followers can, in turn, share this displeasure with their own fans and followers, and the end result can be gut wrenching for the practitioner. Once that unhappy patient presses the send button, his or her message is out there, and it is virtually indelible. All it takes is one person to share it, and it can take on a life of its own.

In an online universe dominated by search engines, reviews are among the first things prospective patients will see when searching for information. They may be exposed to reviews even if they aren’t looking for them, as these tend to pop up everywhere you go online. Practitioners who ignore patient reviews are doing so at their own peril. Those who think that this is just a phase and will go away soon, are sadly mistaken. Consumer reviews are here to stay for every service and product, and will only get more important in the future. Your current and future patients are online reading what others have to say about you. The challenge is that a small number of people may be influencing what others think of you. To stay vigilant, you must listen to what people are saying about you and be a part of this conversation. You also need to encourage your happy patients to post reviews in an ethical way by avoiding any smell of incentives or impropriety.

Practitioners are understandably nervous about the impact of negative reviews. A few negative or not glowing reviews will not cause your clinic to shut down. However, even occasional reviews of 1, 2 and 3 stars can greatly impact your overall ratings. Clearly you need to aim for 4s and 5s continuously on the most relevant platforms to your practice.

Consumers are getting wiser to the process of reviews as well, and are much more likely to check out multiple sites to learn about a practitioner or clinic they are considering. Thus, having a good profile and ranking on one site may not overcome a less stellar rating on an other site. In many cases, 1 star reviews that begin with the ubiquitous (“If I could give this doctor zero stars, I would have …) are often dismissed as a patient holding a grudge or fake. However, 2s and 3s definitely count among prospective patients and they read on to form an indelible impression.

REALSELF SURVEY RESULTS ON RATINGS AND REVIEWS

•In a RealSelf survey: 60% of RealSelf consumers said that finding the right doctor is the number one challenge

•86% of consumers on RealSelf would not choose a doctor without a review

•In a RealSelf survey: 52% (the top answer) of RealSelf consumers said that they choose what doctor(s) to contact based on reviews

•In a RealSelf survey: 75% of RealSelf consumers said that they would be more likely to contact a doctor with 50 reviews and an average rating of 4.5 (out of 5 stars) vs a doctor with 10 reviews, who had an average rating of 5 (out of 5 stars)

•When (after consulting multiple doctors) a decision is made to select a doctor:

•29% of respondents said that comfort and trust was most important.

•22% said that reviews were the second more important thing in choosing a doctor.

Source: RealSelf Survey 2016, REALSELF.COM


 

Reputation Management Strategies

If patient growth is a primary objective for your practice, and it should be, managing online reviews and ratings requires attention. Having accurate listings, engaging in the online conversation about your practice, building your online presence, and increasing reviews maybe some of the most important things your practice can do to protect your reputation.

Physician management of negative online content can take many forms. Some approaches help distill an unflattering post, while others can backfire and escalate a situation. The last thing you want to do is to stimulate one comment and have it spread into a chain of like-minded comments.

Assign a staff member to watch what is being posted on all relevant sites and social networking platforms. Using an external monitoring service can also help alert you to any new developments, such as reposts of negative content and any derivative attacks that appear in response, so you can be proactive. As you check regularly on the review sites for new postings, be careful not to respond in a way that acknowledges a doctor-patient relationship.

Consumers are skeptical of reviews and look for red flags. You can make it worse by engaging with them in a public forum. If you feel compelled to reply, proceed with caution as a professional. Anyone who is reading these reviews is judging whether you are the kind of doctor they want to go to. Do not take risks online for all the world to see.

If you think a response is needed, it should be very straightforward, like “Thank you for expressing your concerns. Please be so kind as to contact our office so we can discuss this with you further. Patient satisfaction is our number one goal.” Rather than the practitioner responding, it is wise to have a staff member be the point person. For less than four- or five-star reviews, try to take the conversation offline. Showing your willingness to be responsive can be almost as powerful as a positive review. In this way, you have demonstrated that you stand behind your reputation and pay attention to situations flagged in public forums. You can then privately try to resolve the conflict, assuming that the post is actually a real patient with a valid issue.

Common complaints on rating sites often center on :

  • long waiting times
  • Rushed staff
  • The doctor did not spend enough time.
  • The feeling that the practice was too busy.
  • The ubiquitous bedside manner.

You could try to distill the commentary about long waits and short visits with a statement, such as, “We are among only a few aesthetic practices in the area, and we pride ourselves on providing quality care to all of our patients.” Do not be defensive, which can be misconstrued as arrogance.

There is always a risk of negative reviews appearing, so devise a strategy for how to respond to these critiques. It is important to listen to your patients and help resolve any negative experiences they may have had with you. When a negative comment is received, respond quickly to meet it head-on. It may feel like an attack against you personally and/or your clinic. Take a deep breath before you address it. First, assess the nature of the comment and respond only in a constructive way, if at all. Responding quickly is important, but it is equally wise to never respond in the heat of the moment when you are angry. Look at the situation from your perspective and that of the customer to give a balanced response.

Part of your social media strategy should be assigning a staff member to monitor all of your social media sites to note any negative posts that were not posted by an actual patient. If you are the victim of a fake review or bogus anonymous comment, and this happens often, try to take the conversation offline and address it head on. On Facebook at least, you can delete the comment, ban the user from posting again, and report it as spam or inappropriate content.

Pro Tip

Keep in mind that once you have a digital imprint online, it is almost impossible to remove.


 

Getting Posts Taken Down

Website hosts have significant latitude to keep or pull a thread. There are certain circumstances in which they are more likely to do so. Read the Terms of Service on the site very carefully. If the poster has violated the terms even slightly, you may have recourse to get the post removed. For example, Yelp’s terms of service state that you must be a customer to post a comment, so this would be a clear violation and you might have some recourse, although nothing is guaranteed.

If you can prove that a post is fake—for example, a writer is complaining about a procedure that your clinic does not offer and you have evidence to substantiate that. If the post is just an opinion, you may be stuck. If the poster is stating something as fact that can be perceived as defamatory to your reputation, you may have a case to get the post taken down. But do not hold your breath. It is very hard to make a valid case to get posts taken down, and rather than spin your wheels and spend good money trying, I would urge you to invest that energy in doing everything you can to encourage five-star reviews from every patient.

 

Strategies for Generating Five-Star Reviews

A satisfied customer is the best business strategy of all. Michael LeBoeuf

The best way to avoid negativity is to not create any reason for it in the first place. But this is nearly impossible anymore. The next best way to counter negative ratings is to make sure they are buried under a slew of positive ratings from real satisfied patients who are your advocates.

So, how do you get patients to post good reviews? Sometimes you have to ask them. It is much easier for staff to ask than the doctor. When a patient compliments the result, office, or staff, it is very easy for the staff to say to the patient, “You will make our day if you give us a positive review.” There is no shame in doing that. In fact, it has become a common practice among all service businesses, including hotels, restaurants, salons, airlines, and even Uber and eBay. The practitioner can do the same, if he or she has the kind of relationship with the patient that feels comfortable. Just asking a patient may not be enough as the thought passes out of his or her mind immediately after leaving your office. Giving the patient a card with various rating sites may be a good reminder. Having patients write reviews while they are in your office will not work because they will come from the same ISP address and will not be considered legitimate.

Encouraging patients to post good reviews about your practice is a constant battle, but the rewards will pay off. Be consistent. Do all you can, every day, to garner positive ratings. If you don’t, you will fall into the rut of getting a negative rating and then suddenly scrambling for some good reviews, which will be very apparent when someone looks at the site.

star-1915448_960_720Honest doctors may admit that the threat of negative reviews has made them just a little more caring and humble as they know that there are more consequences to bad behavior than in the past. There is that little voice inside your head that keeps telling you to just be nice and smile more. Maybe that is not such a bad thing after all. Everyone will get some negative reviews—some unwarranted, yet some deserved. No one likes it. When it happens, first look in the mirror and ask, “Hey, is there some truth in this critique?” Use this as an opportunity to improve how you do things, rather than just getting your back up and acting defensively. If there is a flaw in your system, address it and deal with it directly. If your bedside manner is the main issue, do a little soul searching.

When you find content that addresses a genuine shortcoming in your practice, use it as an opportunity to improve. Develop an approach that instills trust and confidence with each patient visit. If you have to rush to get through a busy day of patients, apologize to anyone who has been kept waiting and explain why. Get the staff involved in answering questions and moving patients through more quickly. Make an extra effort to avoid scheduling mishaps and billing snafus that are sure to cause patients to be irate. Another patient pet peeve is promising to do something and letting it slip through the cracks—such as calling back, contacting their insurance company, sending a receipt, making a copy of a chart, or calling in a prescription.

A collection of sincerely favorable reviews by real patients will outweigh a few negative ones, so being vigilant about fostering goodwill with patients is even more critical now. Persuade patients to write good reviews about your practice by showing that it matters to you. Include positive reviews on your website and brochures and feature them throughout your social media platforms. Post a sign at the reception desk stating that you value patient feedback by any means, including in person, by phone or e-mail, or via online forums.

Your ongoing mission is to create a large body of positive content to outweigh any negative posts that may arise—and they will.

Pro Tip:

Tools like HubSpot can help manage this all

 

Avoiding Legal Action

When you go online, you leave electronic footprints almost everywhere you go. So, if you want to track down someone who has posted about you, you may be able to get their personal information if they gave an ISP or message board when they signed up (name, address, phone number, e-mail, etc.). Some sites might only have required an e-mail address to register. In this case, a subpoena to the ISP that hosts that address will be necessary to obtain the individual’s true identity. But it is not that simple. Ask yourself if doing an exhaustive search is really going to be worth your time and trouble. If you are successful in finding out who the individuals may be, you will not have much recourse to go after them.

Physicians have tried to file lawsuits against patients or doctor rating sites over negative reviews, but they usually lose. It is better to address grievances and complaints by encouraging the patient to come back to the clinic, rather than tackling it online, which may escalate. It is ill advised to allow a bad review.

12 KEY RATINGS AND REVIEW SITES TO MONITOR

  • RealSelf
  • Google
  • Facebook
  • Yelp
  • TripAdvisor
  • Healthgrades
  • RateMDs
  • Vitals
  • Healthcare Reviews
  • Doctoralia
  • TopDoctors
  • WhatClinic

 

Dealing with Negative Posts and Tweets

Negative comments or bogus posts are always a possibility on social media. These can be from random strangers, spammers, and competitive web marketing companies. In some cases, unfortunately, off-color comments may be from actual patients. The fear of negative comments can be a tremendous deterrent for some practitioners to become active in online forums.

The good news, however, is that you have the ability to control who posts on your wall, anything can be removed, and the user can be blocked and reported to Facebook. However, I would urge you to think twice before you do that unless it is abusive or fake. If the post is a comment about pricing or something else benign, you may want to address it—without acknowledging a doctor-patient relationship. When you get rid of it, you just make someone mad. If you delete it on Facebook, which is the only platform you can really do that on easily, the same person who may now be even more annoyed with you, can post it on Yelp, or create a new Facebook account and post it again on Facebook. You may not actually be putting the fire out. Try to take the matter offline and urge the poster to contact the clinic by using Facebook Messenger, e-mail, or phone. This also shows your fans that the clinic is interested in patient care.

On Twitter you have no control at all, so if you see a negative tweet, it is generally best to leave it alone. The risk of responding may be worse than leaving it because Twitter is real time, and if you do not respond in 3 minutes, it is out there. You can try to send a direct message to the Twitter user, which is private, to take it offline.

It is possible to convert unhappy customers to brand advocates if complaints are handled swiftly and proficiently. Patients want to know that you care about them and that they are being heard.

 

Patient Privacy Considerations

Practitioners must keep all patient details anonymous at all times. Get educated on rules and regulations your membership organizations and local health authorities may have regarding social media use, as these can vary widely.

Even now, many cosmetic patients do not want to receive mail, phone calls, e-mails, or other communications that are identified as coming from an aesthetic clinic. In the interest of patient confidentiality, the clinic staff should specifically ask every patient how they wish to be contacted by the clinic; for example, home, mobile, office phone, e-mail, or via postal mail. Some may not want to be contacted at all, and that request should be honored.

If you are going to use any patients’ photos—even if the face is not showing or the eyes are blacked out—written consent is mandatory. The same goes for patient videos or any photos of patients who may have attended a seminar in your clinic. Explain to patients exactly what the consent they are signing covers in order to avoid misunderstandings. Make it clear if their photographs and videos will be used for internal clinic training, external teaching at meetings and conferences, on websites, and on which social media platforms.

A practitioner’s personal behavior, as well as his or her clinic’s actions in online forums, carry some risk. Stay abreast of general professional guidelines for social media that are constantly under evaluation. To protect your license and reputation, check with your malpractice insurance carrier. This is an evolving area, and the law has not kept up with the rapid speed at which this space is moving.

DOCTOR’S ORDERS

•Refrain from friending or reaching out to past or current patients on social media.

•Keep your business accounts (which users may “like” and follow without breaching the practitioner-patient relationship) and personal accounts separate to avoid confusion.

•If someone reaches out to you through electronic means who is not a patient, use your best judgment about engaging, and redirect that person to call or schedule a consultation at your clinic to answer any questions he or she may have.

•Let the patient do the engaging, such as liking your professional business page.

•If a patient tries to friend the practitioner on his or her personal Facebook profile, common practice is not to accept the friend request.

•Never acknowledge, whether directly or indirectly, any doctor-patient relationship in an online forum.

•Posting anything about specific cases, revealing any patient information, or making comments that could be misconstrued as a breach are a no-go.

•Refrain from offering medical advice or suggesting anything that would require a consultation with a practitioner first.


Anyone you assign to post or engage on social media for your clinic should be well versed in the guidelines that apply to your clinic and specialty. That includes staff, external consultants, public relations team, webmaster, or marketing agency. Everyone needs to be on the same page to preserve the boundaries of the doctor-patient relationship when interacting with patients online and ensure that patient privacy and confidentiality are strictly maintained.

In general, you should adhere to the same principles of professionalism online as offline. Compliance with patient privacy regulations is critical, and practitioners must remember to keep all patient details anonymous. If you are unclear on the best guidelines for navigating these uncharted waters, seek legal advice. The consequences can be huge.

 

Stay Calm and Carry On

In reality, it is impossible to have 100% happy patients despite your best efforts. Regrettably, ratings sites and social media platforms have become the obvious places for patients and customers to vent and air their grievances. They are the first port of call for spite-based attacks on your professional reputation, and unfortunately, some patients use these platforms as a weapon.

No matter how good you are as a practitioner, you are bound to get some snide remarks about your fees and complaints about your approach or attitude at some point. It is almost impossible not to, especially if you have a busy practice. The more patients you treat, the higher the odds are of having some unhappy campers in the bunch.

It can be difficult to stay calm when you read what people are writing about you online. The worst thing you can do is to react in a defensive or aggressive manner. Try to stay rational, and reasonable, even when the patient is completely unreasonable. Whenever possible, keep emotions out of it. As a licensed healthcare professional, you do not share the privilege of overreacting with your patients.

 

Communicating with Patients Online

Are Your Messages to Patients Encrypted?

If you have to ask yourself this question, they probably aren’t. Instant messaging via texts or SMS, is a popular and handy method of communication. Although it is perfectly fine for talking to your family and friends, it can pose potential risks for practitioners because this type of correspondence is not secure and can easily be intercepted by others. The same is true for FaceTime® and SKYPE® and Facebook Messenger.

This is especially challenging when it comes to communicating directly with patients or with other healthcare providers directly about patients. Your data and medical records may be compromised. New ways of communicating in cyberspace are way ahead of regulations and continue to fall behind. The traditional ways of making, confirming, changing appointments, asking questions, checking in pre- and post-procedures by mail and phone are no longer efficient methods.

Patients depend on mobile devices 24/7, so it is natural to want to hear from dermatologists and cosmetic surgeons via texting, especially for routine communications such as appointment reminders and prescription renewals. This method of interaction enables patients to connect with their doctors in a way they feel most comfortable, which in turn can help to enhance the doctor–patient relationship. It may also help to promote increased loyalty to the practice, and cut down on cancellations and no-shows.

However for messaging to be secure, it is essential that these communications must be encrypted before they ever get transferred from your device. Basically, encrypted messages can only be read by the intended recipient. Even if your message gets intercepted during the exchange, it is still safe and protected from spying eyes.

Therefore, what is a practitioner supposed to do? Download an app or subscribe to a platform that offers services to encrypt your data before you send it through normal unsafe channels. Search for “secure messaging solutions” to find out more about the options currently available for IOS and Android devices.

 

Summary:

In case you haven’t read all of the useful information above, here is a quick summary on how to create and maintain your online reputation

  • Maintaining an online reputation is one of the most important attribute of growing business now a days
  • Keep all your online listings updated
  • Keep checking online forums for reviews
  • Negative Ratings and reviews are inevitable. It is not possible to keep everyone happy. but need to deal with negative reviews is a necessary step.
  • Don’t argue online, always respond with “we are sorry you had a bad experience. Contact our office so we can assess the situation and help you out however possible”
  • If someone has posted a fake review, you can ask the host to take it down with proof.
  • It is not easy to sue a review forum. So try all together to keep patients as happy as possible.
  • Don’t panic even if you receive a negative review. Keep calm and carry on.
  • Burry a negative review with so many positive reviews that it doesn’t matter. There is no shame in asking patients to give you a review online.

If you have any questions be sure to comment. Or book a 15-minute consultation call with our experts absolutely free.

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