The exercise of finding and selecting a doctor has changed drastically. Once dominated by personal word-of-mouth references, choosing a provider is now online and research-driven. If patients don’t like what they see on practice websites, online business profiles, and review sites, they’ll select another doctor or care setting.
This places every healthcare provider’s web presence and online reputation front-and-center as a critical element of patient acquisition. That’s why PatientPop has focused on the topic of online reputation management for consecutive survey reports.
Last year, we polled practices about their reputation challenges and experiences and published “2018 healthcare providers survey report: online reputation management.” This year, we asked patients for their perspective, publishing “The patient perspective 2019: online reputation.”
How do their opinions and experiences compare? With this short series of online reputation management insights, we look at the statistics and identify areas where providers can — and should — strengthen their connection with patients.
Comparing doctor and patient perspectives on online reputation management
A majority of healthcare providers and patients feel the impact of patient reviews
In our surveys, a large percentage of patients expressed reliance on online reviews, and more than three-quarters of doctors acknowledged the essential role reviews play.
Additionally, patient respondents listed patient reviews first among online resources they use to form an opinion about a provider, and then select one for care. Within the most active and vocal online demographic, the 30-44 age group, more than two-thirds (67.3%) look to reviews when deciding on a doctor.
With the consumerization of healthcare in full swing, most patients look to online reviews as an integral part of the selection process, one of the final steps before booking an appointment. An even higher percentage of healthcare providers consider a strong online reputation essential to a thriving business.
Nearly all doctors worry about negative reviews but relatively few patients have submitted any
When it comes to healthcare reputation management, negative reviews pose a considerable level of concern for providers. It’s not that they believe one unhappy patient will suddenly destroy their average star rating; providers in our 2018 study worry about a negative review being unfair or inaccurate, with nearly 40 percent concerned it will give others the wrong impression of their practice.
Although these worries are legitimate, our survey results show most patient reviews are positive and there for the taking.
Roughly 6 in 10 patients who leave reviews have positive things to say and have never expressed dissatisfaction with their doctors. And, according to our 2019 survey, when asked to provide feedback, patients are 22 percent more likely to do so.
When healthcare providers deliver quality service and ask for patient feedback, they’re far more likely to be rewarded than not. In instances where patients do share their dissatisfaction, addressing that feedback promptly can remedy many issues. According to our survey results, doing so results in a 99 percent increase in patient satisfaction.
Few practices respond to negative feedback properly, and few patients are satisfied with the process
A comparison of responses about the management of negative patient feedback reveals an interesting symmetry.
These nearly identical metrics are striking: The percentage of practices that are best at responding to unhappy patients is nearly identical to the percentage of patients most satisfied with the way practices respond. Although this alignment is interesting, it’s not what’s most important…
Too few practices implement a plan to respond to negative feedback, and far too few patients are happy with their practice’s response — if practices respond at all. (Around one in four chooses not to.) Providers who improve the way they interact with dissatisfied patients can set themselves up for happier, loyal clientele.
Respondents agree Google is the top online source for patient reviews
Among the variety of websites that publish patient reviews, Google is acknowledged by both providers and patients as the top destination.
Additionally, when patients were asked on which websites they’ve posted reviews, Google was the number one choice, followed by the practice website, and then Yelp, with Facebook close behind.
Although Google is the most frequented site by people reading and posting reviews, patient reviews appear across a relatively wide variety of websites, and providers should keep an eye on them all. More than 40 percent of patients who post reviews have done so on more than one website. Whether it’s via reputation management services or part of the staff workflow, monitoring is a must.
To prioritize time and effort, practices should regularly check Google, Healthgrades, Yelp, and Facebook. Due to the overwhelming reliance on Google for information — 88.2 percent market share as of April 2019, according to StatCounter — providers should place the most focus there, optimizing their Google My Business profiles and monitoring any patient engagement.
Finally, providers should not overlook WebMD as an information source for patients. About one-third of patients say they look for reviews on WebMD, yet only 19 percent of practices say they’ve been reviewed on WebMD.
Providers and patients align: Only about half of practices are requesting patient feedback
Despite the resultant benefits of requesting and responding to patient feedback, there’s a tremendous lack of post-visit interaction between providers and patients.
Whether you ask a doctor or patient, it appears roughly half of all providers are actively asking patients for feedback after visits. Reputation management for doctors must include a feedback loop between provider and patient. Yet, even if all the “not sure” provider responses request feedback, that’s still nearly 42 percent of providers not bothering to see if their patients had a satisfactory experience.
Every healthcare provider should be concerned about their patients’ satisfaction. Whether you call it bedside manner or customer service, keeping patients happy is an integral part of delivering care, and a critical part of retaining those patients and reaping the rewards of their lifetime value.
Asking for feedback is also the only way to understand how well your practice is performing from the patient’s point-of-view. What are your practice strengths? What do patients really appreciate? What areas need improvement? The answers can help you stay connected with your patient base, recognize superior staff, refine and expand upon well-received services, and make changes to aspects of your practice to help put your best foot forward.