As a healthcare provider in a world so enthralled in a combination of both digital resources and consumerism, it is imperative you are aware of your virtual presence and know how to effectively manage your online reputation.
Today’s patient population is dominated by healthcare consumers who want to make informed decisions based off digital resources readily available to them. As customers, we rarely buy products without first reading customer reviews on the product website, Amazon, or other websites such as yelp, and even various social media outlets. So why would healthcare be any different?
We are dealing with a generation of digital way finders who prefer to be well-informed and equipped with the knowledge needed to avoid a negative experience and wasted time or money. Realistically, patients prefer to see providers they can find online reviews about.
As patients become more engaged in their healthcare through tools including online reviews, they may be wary if you do not have a strong virtual presence. While the absence of an online reputation means no negative reviews or comments, some patients may be quick to make inaccurate assumptions. Patients could assume your practices, equipment, and office may not be up-to-date and relevant, which could lead them to question what kind of care they would be receiving. After all, we are in an age that demands the integration of technology.
And what if a twenty-something year old millennial comes into your office and questions the care they are receiving? What are they most likely to do? Tweet, Snap, Facebook, or Instagram about it. Maybe even write a blog… the options are endless for patients who are well-connected to the digital world.
Now, I don’t mean to suggest these reviews are the end all be all of your practice, but I urge you to consciously realize and accept the role they have in healthcare today.
Joseph Gordon Levitt once said, “Media used to be one way. Everyone else in the works just had to listen. Now the internet is allowing what used to be a monologue to become a dialogue”
Patients aren’t just looking for reviews out there in cyberspace, they are contributing their own thoughts and experiences.
Which means, while the World Wide Web is a great opportunity to market your practice and increase visibility, it also could be detrimental to business if patients aren’t happy with their care. So providers: it’s time to be proactive and start paying attention to what is circulating on the internet regarding your practice. It’s important to realize just how many different places these reviews could be hiding, from your own practice website, sites like ZocDoc that have an entire marketplace comparing providers, the physician compare website launched by CMS, Yelp, and even social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.
While the thought of managing your online presence can be overwhelming and stressful, understand that this is a tool for patients to ensure they are receiving high quality healthcare and can feel confident in their provider when they may be at their most vulnerable. As an advocate for your patients and for proper care, these platforms aren’t just there to make your life harder, you can use them to spread population health initiatives and even patient education efforts. More and more, providers are using these reviews as valuable patient feedback to understand the patient experience and use it to improve their practices.
Some tips and tricks we have to assist you in managing your online reputation are:
- As a PROVIDER, never respond to positive or negative comment as it could be a compliance issue
- Have a triaging system in place for reviews with someone regularly checking them
- Have a policy in place for how office staff (or someone similarly removed from patient treatment) should respond to reviews both good and bad
- Don’t be afraid to use poor reviews as helpful feedback that could improve your practice
- Be aware that online reviews exist and acknowledge they aren’t going away
Maintaining a positive digital image can be challenging, especially as social media and online review websites are becoming formative players in the healthcare arena. However, if well-managed and not ignored, reviews can spark improvement and lead to a more transparent provider-patient relationship that fosters patient engagement and a positive patient experience. Because let’s be honest, I think it’s safe to say a positive patient experience is the secret to obtaining a good review.
- Lindsey Lanning, Healthcare Compliance Consultant at Itentive Healthcare Solutions