Nowadays, patients don’t make appointments with new physicians without checking them out first. According to a 2014 Local Consumer4 Review Survey written by Search Engine Land, 88% of users state that they trust online reviews as much as recommendations by friends and family.

There are an abundance of physician rating sites with star ratings and a critique ranging from:
* Bedside Manner
*Time Spent with Patient
*Correct Diagnosis
*Difficulty getting appointment
*Wait time in the office
*Polite Staff

You are also given the opportunity to type your comments in boxes such as:
*Would you go to this office or health facility again?
*How would you describe your experience to a friend?
*What stood out in your memory about your experience?
*What is it that you really liked or was cutting edge?
*What did you dislike?

Notice that the entire review involves your office staff as well as you, so make sure that your employees know how to handle difficult patients- they are usually the first to make a poor online rating.
If you are vying for patients in your specialty, the one with the stellar reviews are going to get the business.  If that’s not you, the number of patients on your schedule could plummet over night. (And that’s not a pretty site)  According to a study by the Harvard Business School, a one star drop in your rating can mean a loss of as much as ten percent of your medical business.
Since a negative review can cause major damage to your reputation as well as a growing practice, you as a physician, can no longer bury your “head in the sand” and hope that the problem blows over or disappears.

Don’t expect reviews to be amended or deleted from the site (even upon request).  It is clearly stated in terms of use on the site that “the opinions expressed on Platform are those of Our Users and not Ours.”  “We do not recommend or endorse any particular Healthcare Provider whose information, reviews, or ratings appear on our Platform. Rather we are only a conduit or intermediary that provides the aforementioned content regarding Healthcare Providers.  No content or other information contained on the Platform should be construed as a recommendation or endorsement.”

Strategy in 4 Easy Steps

So, What Can You Do?
Step 1
The most important step is to be aware of what is being said and the reviews that patients are making of you online.  Disgruntled patients may spread the news rather than letting you know in person.  It is easier for them and avoids confrontation.
While monitoring sites can be quite time-consuming, there are companies and applications that do it for you:
ReviewPush- provides monitoring with several sites, issuing email alerts and notifications
GoogleAlert- lets you know when people are “talking” about you and on what site, providing email alerts and notifications.  This is free and well worth the time to register.

Make a list of the most common review sites and check them once a month or on a regular basis.  There are many websites to choose from but online sites used most often include:
* WebMD

Step 2

If a negative review comes your way (which will happen at least once for every doctor), handling it in a positive way can put out the fire instead of sparking the flames. Responding immediately will prevent it from festering and doing more damage.

If in fact the poor review is warranted, place a comment thanking the reviewer for bringing the problem to your attention and stating that the issue has been corrected.  If it isn’t warranted, rather than going on a verbal tirade, ask the reviewer to contact you at your office so that you can address the problem directly.  This also shows prospective patients that you are flexible and willing to work with patients as well as validating what they have to say.  This becomes a very positive picture.

Step 3

Dilute the negative reviews.  Target your best patients and just like referral and loyalty programs that are already implemented in your office, encourage them to post reviews. Don’t coerce them.  Rather provide your loyal patients with easy to understand, written instructions on how to rate you online.  Many glowing reports will drown out any negativity.

Step 4

Suing a patient in court for a bad review and loss of reputation, only garners a worse review and the story about the case not only puts you in a bad light, but usually goes viral.  I can’t urge you enough, DON’T SUE FOR A BAD REVIEW!

There is an exception to this rule of course. (Isn’t there always!)

Disgruntled employees or those you have fired, competing colleagues or those with their own agenda that hope to harm you can actually post fake reviews.  In this situation, hire an expert to deal with the problem, root out the source of the fiction and sue the perpetrator in court.

If all this is too emotionally taxing and goes beyond your attention, there are companies that provide reputation management services for physicians and medical facilities.  These reputation firms monitor posts as well as providing content management and tools for use by staff.  They help fix bad online reputations caused by a myriad of problems including name confusion and malcontents.
The important thing for you to remember is that regardless of how you want to approach the reputation management, that there be a specific system in place.

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