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Over the past decade, the rising use and importance of online reviews and social media have changed the way in which patients learn about doctors and medical practices.   Many people trust and depend on the information they find online, using this to compliment or even replace the word-of-mouth recommendations they might have depended on in the past. These new ways of communicating create the need to manage one’s online reputation.  This can be done with a 3-step process:

  1. Discover existing reviews and monitor the web for new ones
  2. Address the reviews
  3. Encourage more positive reviews

Review Discovery and Monitoring

In order to find existing reviews, the first step is to check the main review sites.   Google Local and Yelp are the two most important review sites for businesses of all types, including medical practices.   Search these sites for your practice name and the names of each of your providers, and you’ll have a great idea of what people are likely to see when they begin to learn about you online.  In addition, Healthgrades and Vitals are important sites for reviews specifically about doctors.  Make sure to search for all providers affiliated with your practice on these sites.

As you locate your various directory listings, you should create a documents to keep track of all the sites.   We like to use a spreadsheet, where you have one column for each location of your practice, and one column for each provider.   Then, you’ll have an easy way to check in on the most important sites.   The simple way to monitor is to manually check each site.   In addition, there are many services on the Web to help you monitor changes – you can read about 5 of these monitoring tools here.   There are even free tools to help you specifically monitor reviews, such as FreeReviewMonitoring.com.  Or, you can work with an agency – like us 🙂 – to get help in gathering this information.

Dealing with Reviews

Once you find your reviews, the next step is to address them.   If you have negative reviews, the first thing you should do is determine if you can get them removed.   Every review site has its own terms of service.  If you are able to identify any way in which a reviewer breaks the terms, you can request that the review be removed.   In cases where removal is not an option, a response often is the best approach.

By responding to a negative review, addressing the complaint, and offering a solution, you can help humanize your practice and show others reading the review that you are a business that will solve problems should they occur.  You can also respond to positive reviews.  This can be equally as valuable as responding to and fixing a negative.   By responding to the positives, you have a chance to reinforce the things that the reviewer mentioned.  Also, you will help that positive review take up more real estate on the review page, possibly pushing any negative reviews further down the page.

One important note:   always be sure to avoid getting into a discussion involving any PHI.   If in doubt, post a general response, and suggest that the reviewer contact you offline, as you are not permitted to discuss their personal information online due to HIPAA regulations.

Encouraging Positive Reviews

The last step in the reputation management process involves encouraging positive reviews.   Depending on your practice, the personalities of your providers, and other factors, some combination of the following can be used:

  • Ask your happy patients personally
  • Include a review “tip sheet” with instructions for posting in the checkout materials you give a patient
  • Include links on your website to review sites
  • If you send any type of practice newsletter, include a request there
  • If you have a profile on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or other social media sites, post a link to your review sites