Social media is fast becoming a fact of modern life. More and more searches are performed on Facebook, Google maps are used instead of the phone book, and prospective customers look at social media review sites before they decide to patronize a business.
What does this have to do with your medical practice? Whether they like it or not, physicians are getting ‘reviewed’ by their patients and they have little control about what is being said about them. A local eye doctor has only a dozen reviews on Google, but they are all horrible – not a single positive review is to be found. Now, he isn’t so bad, but a potential new patient would think otherwise, and keep looking for another provider.
What could a doctor in this situation do? It’s a widely held maxim that a satisfied customer tells a friend but a dissatisfied one tells 10 friends. There are probably many more websites disparaging LASIK than there are sites extolling its benefits. Clearly, in the case of social media, it’s better to be proactive than reactive. This is why some practises are looking into ways to help improve their reputations from encouraging reviews to review monitoring tools.
1. Reputation monitoring services
These include such products as Reputation.com for Business and eMerit from MedicalJustice.com. These use proprietary algorithms which increase the popularity of favorable listings about your practice on search engines and review sites and push unfavorable comments down and away from visitor’s eyes. The idea is that most people rarely read beyond the first page of listings and hopefully only see favorable comments.
2. Provide better customer service
The days of having a terrible bedside manner while relying solely on one’s clinical skills are becoming a distant memory. Patients have become our customers just as they are customers of any other industry. And they can take their business elsewhere. Ask a practice management consultant to observe all aspects of your practice’s interaction with patients, including phone calls. Or hire secret ‘shoppers’ to call your practice, to schedule an appointment, and go through the entire practice experience – and then give you frank feedback.
3. Have a patient advocate
We all have had patients who have insisted that the practice dropped the ball when perhaps there was just a miscommunication. And doctors are often too busy to handle the problem with patience. Sometimes it’s better to have the practice administrator or a clinical coordinator be the patient’s advocate and calmly try to right the wrong. We have had new patients tell us they heard about us on a social forum in their local retirement community, where we made a mistake but corrected it to that person’s satisfaction – this gave us additional credibility.
4. Go on the offensive, instead of playing defense
Put processes in place whereby customers are encouraged to post positive commentary about your practice and your doctors. This can be as easy as giving them written instructions on how to post a glowing review on Yelp. Or helping them to log in to your practice Facebook account on an iPad in your waiting room.
For the past couple of months we have been using a tool called Demand Force, which integrates with our electronic practice management system. In addition to performing appointment confirmations via text and email, it sends automated surveys to patients allowing immediate feedback and potentially troubleshooting an issue before it escalates. Currently, the survey results show up under Demand Force’s search engine listing, but will soon have the capability of ‘syndicating’ to other popular review sites such as Google, Facebook, Yelp or CitySearch. So far, we have seen steady improvement in search rankings.
You may ask, why encourage patients to write a review since it might not be a favorable one? That’s a valid question. But the reality is that customer reviews of businesses are now quite the norm, and the practice of medicine will be no different. You can hope that none of your patients – especially the dissatisfied ones – know how to post a review online. The better option would be to take the lead and get out in front of the trend, and not fall behind it.