Online reviews can be a huge benefit or your practice's worst nightmare. Much of this depends on how your practice handles them. In this article we'll review the latest data on patient created reviews and how to manage them to get the best results from those reviews.
Why are online reviews so important in healthcare?
According to a 2020 Software Advice poll, 90% of patients, "...use online reviews to evaluate physicians." Furthermore, 71% of patients use online reviews as the first step in seeking a new provider. This means that your online reputation is the metric by which your competency and bedside manner is potentially judged.
A positive review history could bring out-of-network patients to your practice, with nearly half (43%) of those polled saying they would go out of their insurance network for a provider with favorable reviews.
What about patients who give negative reviews?
You may be surprised to hear that only about 1% of patients leave "very negative" reviews and only 10% reported leaving somewhat negative reviews. We'll share some tips below on how to address these.
3 Strategies to Succeed With Online Patient Reviews
Now that you've got reviews, your practice needs to manage and optimize them.
1. Respond to the Negative AND Positive Reviews
66% of patients polled felt that it is “very” or “moderately important” for providers to respond publicly to online reviews, addressing complaints head-on (without violating HIPAA laws of course).
It's great to write a thank you response to a patient that leaves a glowing review of your practice, but it may be even more impactful to offer a thoughtful, genuine and respectful response to a negative review. It's easy to get defensive when reading a negative review but it can better be used as a learning experience to help your practice continually hone the patient experience.
Respond in the right way, not right away. Don't respond immediately to a negative review. By taking some time before posting you're much more likely to be in a clear head space to craft a courteous response that acknowledges the patient's concerns. Practices can show prospective patients that they take all feedback seriously and genuinely want to provide a better patient experience.
The poll also points out that patients don't necessarily weigh very negative reviews heavier than positive ones. 36% of patients overlook negative reviews if the provider responded to them thoughtfully.
In the end, the right response to a negative patient review could bring about many more positive reviews in the future.
2. Resist the Temptation to Post Fake Reviews
Patients don't believe everything they read when it comes to review sites. They read reviews with a critical, even skeptical eye, with 70% saying they disregard reviews that seem hyperbolic or exaggerated. If a review isn't specific and overly positive or negative they tend not to believe it.
What patients are reading are the ratings about quality of care, according to 67% of those polled. The least of their concerns? Pictures of providers and their office.
3. Don't Ignore Online Reviews Altogether
For medical practices, a busy schedule is the norm, so it may be easy to put off or forget about monitoring online reviews. An absent practice, however, can do more harm than good. Scheduling time out of each week to personally respond to reviews should be a priority.
Not responding to reviews—both positive and negative—is a huge missed opportunity for a practice to hear genuine feedback, attract new patients, continue to improve, and develop more meaningful relationships with their current patients.
Software Advice Data
To collect the data, Software Advice polled over 500 American patients about their use of online review sites. They found that year after year the trend continues to grow. When the data from the 2020 poll is compared to the same study conducted in 2013 the trend becomes obvious. In 2013 only 25% of patients polled said they used online reviews for their providers. Today, if you combine the responses of "Often" and "Sometimes" you'll see that the majority (65%) of patients are using these review sites routinely. Even those polled who chose "Rarely" consist of 25% of patients.
How does your practice handle online reviews? Let us know in the comments!