Author Archives: Ira Pasternack

How Online Reviews Influence Prospective Patients

When you are travelling in an unfamiliar city, or when you are simply looking for a change of pace in your hometown, do you ever find yourself using online reviews to help choose a restaurant? Believe it or now, many people go through a similar process when choosing a new doctor. In fact, according to the 2016 Local Consumer Review Survey, Medical/Healthcare is second only to Restaurants/Cafes in the importance of reputation when choosing a business.

The website has done research into how patients use online reviews, surveying patients in 2013, 2014, and again in 2016. The 2016 findings provide valuable insights into the importance of reviews, including:

  • 84% of respondents use online reviews to evaluate doctors
  • 77% of these people start their search with online reviews
  • 47% would prefer an out-of-network doctor with better reviews than an in-network doctor

Leveraging Online Reviews for Your Practice

Despite the statistics listed above, we find that some physicians are not comfortable being proactive about encouraging their patients to review them. These same physicians often come to us with a complaint: their new patients are rarely reporting that they found them online. Instead, these new patients tend to come from a personal referral, from an insurance company’s provider directory, or from other offline sources. In virtually all of these cases, the practice has at least one direct competitor who has a significant number of positive online reviews. Given patients’ tendencies to depend on reviews, is it really a surprise that doctors who have very few reviews are not acquiring very many of these patients?

The good news is that there are many ways to encourage happy patients to post positive reviews. These include low-tech options that will meet the needs of many practices, as well as technology driven options that help in even the most competitive of situations.

Want more ideas? Download “7 Steps to Positive Reviews“, or request a consultation.

Webinar: HIPAA and Your Reputation

What you don’t know may cost you your practice

Ira-PasternackOn Tuesday, August 23rd at 2 PM ET, Ira Pasternack will be presenting a webinar for the Compliancy Group. Sign up to get help staying HIPAA compliant when managing your online reputation.

The Compliancy Group is dedicated to simplifying the HIPAA compliance process for small- and mid-size organizations. This webinar is a part of their free education series. In it, we will discuss:

  • HIPAA Requirements healthcare privacy document on an office deskHow to assess your reputation
  • How HIPAA affects reputation management
  • Ways of improving your reputation
  • Staying HIPAA compliant when engaging with patients online


Sign up for “HIPAA and Your Reputation” today!


How To Measure Urgent Care Marketing Results

Marketing, and medical marketing in particular, has become increasingly complex over the past few decades. Back before the age of the Internet, a simple yellow pages ad and/or a few good relationships with referral partners could fill a practice. Today, we have a plethora of both online and traditional marketing tactics to choose from.

How do we decide which tactics to use? The good news is that with the complexity, we also have new tools that allow us to track your marketing results. Not every marketing technique will work in every situation, and many that do work will need to be tweaked to be truly effective. Ultimately, when we establish legitimate metrics and systems for analyzing the results of our marketing campaigns, we can help create a thriving medical practice. To do this, we need to start by deciding on a set of KPIs.

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for Urgent Care Practices

The following are metrics that should be considered when tracking results of urgent care marketing campaigns. Not all of these are relevant or possible in all situations, but by choosing a representative sample form the list below, you’ll be on your way to creating a system that allows you to maximize the  return on investment from your advertising and marketing dollars.

  • The bottom line numbers:measure urgent care marketing
    • average number of patients seen per day
    • number of new vs. returning patients
    • P&L statement
  • Phone calls measured via:
    • mobile click-to-call
    • AdWords call tracking
    • Third party call tracking
  • Website visitors
    • Online checkins
    • Form fills
    • Newsletter signup
    • Lead magnet opt-in
    • Overall traffic
    • Percentage of traffic that is highly engaged (based on time spent on site and/or views of pages)
    • Directions lookups
  • Audience numbers
    • Email subscribers
    • Social Media followers/fans

Establishing the Value of a Conversion

The various indicators listed above will have differing values. Some, such as online checkins via your website, allow for a very detailed level of revenue tracking if you are using the right checkin technology. Others indicators, such as your website traffic numbers, are useful in evaluating the reach of your campaigns and the level of engagement with existing and prospective patients.

Curious about the best set of KPIs for your practice, or need help setting up a tracking system? Contact us for a free consultation.


Responding to Online Reviews in a HIPAA Compliant Manner

HIPAA violation document - stay HIPAA comliant

You probably already know that due to HIPAA, you are limited with regard to how and what you can communicate with patients online. But did you realize that staying HIPAA compliant when responding to online reviews is becoming more and more risky for doctors? A recent article co-published by ProPublica and The Washington Post provides examples of violations, based on unique access they were provided to over 1.7 million Yelp reviews. As this article states, (emphasis added): “The law forbids [health care providers] from disclosing any patient health information without permission.

Still not sure about this? The best thing you can do is speak to your attorney and/or other HIPAA experts. Don’t have access to a HIPAA expert? Find one now! Don’t like dealing with lawyers? Believe me, you’ll like it less when one is presenting you with a HIPAA violation.

If you’d like to learn more now, check out the links below. Along with each article, you’ll find a quote that gets to the heard of this matter:

1. Responding to Negative Online Patient Reviews: 7 Tips

“Follow HIPAA. The medical profession is uniquely hampered in its ability to respond to online reviews because of patient privacy laws. You simply cannot disclose any protected health information in your response, because the patient has not given you consent to do so. The fact that the patient may have disclosed private information in his initial review does not give you permission to do the same in response.”

2. How to Be HIPAA Compliant when Responding to Negative Online Reviews

“Even if a patient chooses to disclose personal information online, a physician is still prevented from doing so without that patient’s consent”

3. The Do’s and Don’t of Responding to Online Reviews About Your Practice

“Never publicly discuss patient specifics. A patient can post anything they want about their visit with you, but it is a major HIPAA violation for you to say anything about them in a response.”

4. The Right Way to Fight Bad Online Reviews

“Some doctors assume that if patients publicly disclose protected health information on their own, doctors are free to respond. This is not accurate. The reason is simple: The doctor does not have the patient’s permission to disclose protected health information—regardless of whether the patient did so first on her own.”


The 3 Main Types of Online Patient Feedback

Social Media is one of 3 main types of patient feedback

When patients are especially happy or particularly frustrated with their physician, they are increasingly likely to go online and tell the world about it. This user-generated content is one of the most valuable and also the most challenging aspects of the Internet. Read on to learn about the three main forms of online patient feedback, along with ideas for how to deal with it. Later, you can dig deeper with our one page quick reference guide, The Top 5 Online Reputation Management Tools for Physicians.

  1. Ratings and Reviews: These are generally found on directories, including general sites such as Google and Yelp and medical industry sites such as Healthgrades and Vitals. Whether attached to a medical practice or an individual physician, your ratings and reviews can make a drastic difference in whether or not a patient chooses you as their doctor. General sites tend to have a simple standard structure of a 1- to 5-star rating system with an open-ended review. Health directories tend to have a more detailed and complex structured system that rates providers on a number of different factors.
  2. Social Media Sites: Facebook and Twitter are the two main sites where patients submit feedback, but LinkedIn — which has the advantage of giving you a large degree of control over your “Recommendations” — and many others also contribute to the landscape. Facebook actually allows for reviews, and has joined Google and Yelp as one of the top-tier review sites for local businesses. Social media sites welcome less structured feedback by allowing people to post comments directly to a business or to simply tag a business whether or not that they have an active presence on the network.
  3. Blogs and Miscellaneous Websites: With over 100 million blogs now online, you never know which patient might have their own online following. Blog feedback is rarely a patient’s first response, but if someone is particularly frustrated (or happy, but this is less common), the situation can escalate from a review or social media comment into a full-blown blog post. A widely-read post can result in greater exposure, and in some cases online news publications will pick up the story and spread it far and wide.

Ready to dig deeper? Download our one page quick reference guide, The Top 5 Online Reputation Management Tools for Physicians – just fill out the form below and we’ll send it right over.

Eight Ways for Physicians to Improve Their Online Reputation

Smiling doctor at the clinic giving an handshake to his patient, healthcare and professionalism concept

What story does the Internet tell about you? Your online reputation is formed by information that people can find about you online.  People mostly form their impression from content found in the first page or so of search engine results. Since people will search in a variety of ways, and get overlapping but different results from each method, most physicians end up with two to three dozen sites that make up the bulk of their online reputation.

Check out these eight actionable tips to help you take control of your personal online reputation.

Fill our the form below to sample the first module of our class “Optimize Your Online Presence: A Physician’s Field Guide to Online Reputation Management”.

  1. Claim (or create) and optimize your directory listings in physician-specific directories and general business directories. One trick, if you are not in a rush, is to start by correcting your information in the NPI Registry, as that information propagates to some of the commercial directories.
  2. Read and consider responding to all of your online reviews. Due to HIPAA and other factors, a public response is not always possible, but a private response is often an option. Even if you don’t respond, you may be able to learn from trends seen across reviews.
  3. Ask patients about their experience, and encourage positive reviews. Some practices incorporate this encouragement into their workflow with every patient. Others focus on people they know to be their happiest patients. There is no single right way, but there is no denying that online reviews are one of the most powerful tools for both search engine optimization (SEO) and conversion rate optimization (CRO) – yes, reviews will help you get in front of more prospective patients AND convert a higher percentage of prospects into new patients.
  4. Make sure the website of your current employer(s) are optimized for your name. A bio/profile page on a company website can be optimized to appear near the top of most physician name searches. If you have negative content to push down, this is one good tool in your arsenal.
  5. Make sure past employers have removed you from their websites and other online properties. This content, whether on the practice or hospital website or within their social media presence, can confuse both prospective and existing patients.
  6. Create profiles and participate in discussions on social media sites. LinkedIn is a great option, as an optimized profile will rank well for searches on your name, and it is the easiest  of the popular social networks on which to maintain a professional presence. Facebook can also rank well for your name, and if you have negative search results to push down, there are ways to use it in a professional manner.
  7. Write for, or get quoted in, online news sites. News sites tend to rank well in search engines. A regular column in even a small online publication can lead to multiple pages ranking well for your name. And, any sort of article about you, such as an interview or profile, will likely rank well if it is from a legitimate news source – even if that source is a hyperlocal site.
  8. Create content related to your areas of expertise. This final tip contains a world of opportunity. Whether you focus on simple but important consumer health tips, or academic research aimed at other healthcare professionals, if you produce consistent content, some of it will end up ranking well for your name. You can use many different platforms, such as a company blog, personal blog, a Facebook Business Page or Group, a LinkedIn Group, a YouTube Channel, a SlideShare account, and many more. Content can even be repurposed across multiple channels in order to get control of an increasing number of links that rank well for your name.

Fill our the form below to sample the first module of our class “Optimize Your Online Presence: A Physician’s Field Guide to Online Reputation Management”.

Urgent Care Digital Marketing Quick Reference Guide

Online marketing is an increasingly complex, multi-faceted process that begins with your Internet presence. This presence includes your website, social media profiles, and directory listings. After building out your presence, the next step is to direct prospects there, using techniques that range from SEO to paid online advertising. Then, you’ll want to engage with your visitors, via your website content and calls to action, as well as through social media, responding to reviews, email marketing, and remarketing advertising campaigns. By nurturing your connections, you can convert them to patients.

To help you better understand the digital marketing process for urgent care, we’ve created a quick reference guide with a full glossary of terms. Get your free guide here:

Personal SEO for Physicians

Personal SEO is the process of optimizing search engine results for a person’s name, including common misspellings or variations. For physicians, variations with and without the “Dr.”, the “M.D.”, and other post-nominal letters should be included. By default, the results most people see when searching for their name are likely to include errors, omissions, or unclear information.

The good news is that you have it within you power to cultivate the search engine results. Below, we’ll look at some ways you can improve your personal SEO, but first let’s review why you should care about this issue.

Why Personal SEO Is Important for Doctors

There are a variety of reasons why people search for a physician’s name.

  1. Prospective patients may be researching possible new doctors
  2. Existing patients may want to know more about you
  3. Prospective employers
  4. Anyone from a non-profit or association you are (or would like to be) affiliated with
  5. Anyone considering you for a speaking or writing opportunity
  6. Friends, family, and anyone you meet in your personal life

Not all of these will apply to every doctor, but at least a few will. Whether you are a physician yourself, or if your organization employs them, the rest of this post will address ways that you can take control of the search engine results that people see, in order to highlight your best qualities.

How to Optimize Search Results for a Physician

Depending on the employment status and other factors for an individual physician, the exact mix of tactics used will vary. Options include:

  • optimizing employer websites for the name of the physician, by creating and optimizing content about the individual
  • creating or correcting listings on physician directories and general business directories
  • addressing existing online reviews, and encouraging new positive reviews
  • creating social media profiles and participating in discussions on social networks
  • creating content related to your areas of expertise

By using an appropriate mix of personal SEO tactics – all in a HIPAA compliant manner – you can take control of the first impression that people get when searching for your name online.

Want to learn more? Get a free lesson from our new online class, or schedule a free Personal SEO Consultation today – just fill out this form and we’ll be in touch:


Webinar: What Every Doctor Needs to Know About Reputation Management


In this free 30 minute webinar, you will learn how to manage the search results that people see when searching for your name.


  • The importance of search results
  • How directories work
  • What to do about reviews
  • Getting control of your results

Date & Time

Tuesday, April 12
11 AM PST / 2 PM EST

Presented By

Ira Pasternack
President, WebForDoctors

Fill out the form below to sign up: