According to a 2014 survey of more than 2,000 consumers, online reviews hold just about as much clout as personal recommendations.  It should make sense, shouldn’t it? With the raging success of online review hubs such as Yelp and Software Advice, businesses that maintain a healthy internet relationship with the public stand to gain the trust, and business, of the audience in which they serve.

Laptop Work-10With a wealth of knowledge at the fingertips of anyone with access to the internet, establishing a strong online rapport is essential to the vitality of a business. These days, consumers trust other consumers to lead them to a solid buying decision. The healthcare industry is no exception.  Software Advice, an electronic health record (EHR) comparison site, surveyed 4,620 U.S. health consumers and found that 42 percent of patients cited favorable online reviews as a deciding factor when looking for a healthcare provider.  This number was up from the 26 percent who said they use online reviews in 2013.  More specifically, 44 percent of respondents in 2014 said they’d be open to seeing physicians outside of their insurance network if the doctors had better reviews than in-network providers.

Among commonly used sites, Yelp and Healthgrades draw in the majority of patients looking for reviews on a potential provider. Quality of care ranks at the top of the list as far as most valuable information obtained from a healthcare review.

Gain control over the conversation

Being a bystander in the online conversation surrounding your practice could hinder patient growth potential. It may serve as a hard truth to face, but the discussion will happen regardless of whether or not you choose to participate in it.  Take these steps to cultivate a positive exchange of information concerning your office.

Solicit, solicit, solicit!

Soliciting online reviews is a great way to get started with building your cyber presence but should be done with caution.  Determining who would be most likely to write a positive review about your practice is perhaps the most important decision to make before requesting a review.  Patients who display supreme satisfaction with your services or have seen a great deal of positive results are the best candidates for review requests. Of course, out of sight, out of mind is a very real concept so make it a point to request a review at the conclusion of a good visit and follow up in email format later in the day. Consider offering a gift card or slight discount on services in exchange for a positive review.

Monitor negative reviews

As with any marketing strategy, monitoring negative feedback is essential in damage control. Negative reviews can have a lasting impact on the growth of your practice and taking the time to (respectfully) respond will not only allow review searches to see that you care about your online reputation, it will also show that you are willing to address issues and concerns. In addition to shining a good light on you with prospective patients, it can also allow you the opportunity to fix the issue with your current patient.  Be considerate of the negative reviewer’s perspective and offer a solution. Invite them back to your office for a free follow-up or provide them a discount on supplement or vitamin orders.

Provide the best care possible

You may think this goes without saying but quality care is the best strategy there is when it comes to gaining positive online reviews.  Whether driven to write a negative review or a positive review, the person taking time out of their day to do so is driven by an emotion.  This arousal is what motivates them to tell other about your stellar, or lacking, performance.  Eliminate the latter by going above and beyond to develop a relationship with your patients and make them feel appreciated and respected. Empower them when the fall short of their health goals and champion them when they succeed.  Turn the doctor/patient relationship into one built on collaboration and mutual respect and they will want to help you by sharing it with the world.

Are online reviews working in your favor? Comment below to share your story with P2P readers.