The spread of the novel coronavirus has caused worry and concern over the past few months. Healthcare providers are now frequently called upon to respond quickly to online questions from patients and review evolving information from the medical community
The good news is that patients have a good level of trust and reliance on their providers. In fact, two-thirds of patients say their trusted source for COVID-19 information is their doctor.
As part of this reliance, there’s the expectation, from patients and the community in general, that healthcare providers are the experts in this time of uncertainty. You and your practice have a personal connection with your patients. The way you respond to their questions online, plus their negative and positive feedback, is critical now and can impact your online reputation.
If you don’t keep your reputation in top shape during this national emergency, it could affect your business in the future. Online reviews, the key component of online reputation, are the single most influential online resource for patients: 7 of 10 patients look to patient reviews when deciding on a healthcare provider.
Here are the basic steps to keeping your reputation and brand standing out during this very challenging time.
Keep your online practice information current
First, review all of your listings across Google, healthcare review sites like WebMD, your social media channels, and other sites on which your practice appears. If you’re prioritizing your efforts, Google is especially important. Pay attention to those areas that have the most impact on your ranking — your practice name and address, business category, website URL, and Google patient reviews.
If your practice has changed its hours of operation, location, services, or contact information because of COVID-19, keep your listings updated with any new details, and remove anything that’s inaccurate.
It’s okay if information changes frequently as you and your staff flex with the changing circumstances of the pandemic, or are even forced to temporarily close your office. Just keep posting any changes online, as they happen.
Also, take a look at your Google My Business dashboard often to ensure that your patients can select your current practice website and services, and land directly on the treatment and services pages that matter most right now.
Monitor patient reviews, respond with accuracy and compassion
Right now, there’s a good chance your patients are more fearful, uncertain, and stressed about their health and wellbeing, and concerned for friends and family members, too. So Any patient reviews may reflect higher levels of emotion, both positive and negative. As patients provide feedback, consider this a real-time opportunity to consider any adjustments you need to make, and respond immediately with compassion and understanding. The stakes are higher for you and your patients during times of stress.
To keep up with ongoing patient reviews and feedback, you’ll want technology and strategy in place to respond to patients, fast. An online reputation management service can help you monitor and manage incoming feedback. You can then swiftly adjust your responses and timing related to reviews as the pandemic circumstances change. Overall, however, be sure to keep your practice brand and voice consistent.
Right now, what’s most important when responding to patients is to be prompt and informative. You can amplify your credibility by guiding patients toward accurate, trustworthy information sources, along with your own medical expertise.
Remember, in all communications, to protect patient confidentiality and stay HIPAA-compliant. Never reveal any identifying information or PHI, and always offer to take the conversation offline, and contact the patient directly.
If patients frequently comment or ask about the coronavirus in your online reviews or feedback, consider answering their common questions on the main page of your practice website, and by using Google Q&A functionality.
Monitor social media comments and practice reviews
You should also closely monitor social media comments and feedback about your practice on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube, and Google.
Be prepared to respond to negative reviews or comments on social platforms, and to interact with patients who share positive feedback about their experience with your practice. If you don’t already have a social media policy in place for your practice, prepare one that outlines who can respond to patients online and some standard replies.
Social media can also be a helpful tool to send out brief but frequent updates to your patients and community, with recent announcements, products, or services information. This gives your practice and providers the opportunity to personalize the information you share, and publish educational articles or content.
Finally, remember to update and optimize your profiles on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. Approach this as you would when updating your Google business profile, using each social media platform’s functions to your advantage.