image of a hand choosing a star rating on a sliding scaleDo you remember the last time you looked for a restaurant? A new hairstylist? Someone to make a few repairs around your home? You may have asked a friend for a recommendation, or you may have decided to do your own research. More and more, people are utilizing the same process to find medical providers — asking for referrals and reading patient reviews.

That’s great news for your organization. Personal referrals and online patient reviews are two of the best (free) marketing tactics available — if you know how to get patients to write reviews, how to respond to them, and how to use them to your advantage.

Sites like Healthgrades, WebMD and Yelp are well-known hubs for patient reviews and medical doctor ratings. They can be a great source of new patients for your practice or organization, too. But, these sites aren’t the only location for patient reviews of doctors. Your doctor bios or provider directory can include them, too.

How can you tell if adding patient reviews to your website is the right choice for you? Start with these questions.

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Why should you include patient reviews or doctor ratings in your provider directory?

Patients rely on reviews when looking for a new provider. As many as 79% of individuals read patient reviews of doctors before making an appointment. And readers trust reviewers. Over 80% of patients who read online reviews report that the content of those reviews influences their decision to choose a new healthcare provider.

Consider, also, that 45% of online consumers go to a hospital’s website when looking for a doctor. There’s no more effective provider search tool than your provider directory, which (if you’ve optimized it) already includes your physicians’ photos, bios, and credentials.

To sum it up, including patient reviews and ratings in your provider directory creates a powerful tool for capturing the attention of potential patients and getting them excited to come through your doors, all without leaving your site or needing to ask for a second opinion.

Keep in mind, if you solicit patient reviews you’ll want to make sure your directory or physician pages are set up to receive them. In most cases, that means using an internal review system or patient portal so that you can make sure reviews and ratings come only from patients who have been in your care.

How should you collect patient reviews?

There are a few tried-and-true ways to get patients to write reviews. In many cases, all you have to do is ask. In a 2020 survey by BrightLocal, 70% of consumers indicated that they would provide an online review if asked.

Some providers may not feel comfortable asking their patients for reviews. In that case, here are a few other methods to try:

  • Print instructions for your patients indicating how to leave an online review. Ask your office staff to give these directions to patients as they depart your facility or mail them to patients in the days following an appointment.
  • Send an automated follow-up to patients after a visit, such as an email or text message. Thank them for their visit and encourage them to review your organization on your website, social media pages or review site.
  • Add a link on your organization’s homepage or on an easy-to-find section of your website. Link this URL directly to your review form to make it as simple as possible for patients to leave a review.
  • Offer an incentive for leaving a patient review, such as a pair of movie tickets or a gift card for a small amount. A reward can be a wonderful trigger for patients who have been intending to leave a review but haven’t gotten around to it yet!

What can you do to encourage positive patient reviews?

Negative reviews can discourage patients from seeing your providers. To keep patient reviews from working against you, be sure to:

  • Ask your current patients to provide reviews. Remember, your long-term patients are your best brand ambassadors. They’ve built a trusting relationship with your organization and know all the benefits of relying on your providers for their healthcare.
  • Follow up on compliments. If a patient says that they enjoyed their visit or that you have a nice facility, use the opportunity to ask for a review! Encourage your staff to look for these opportunities as well.
  • Respond to good reviews (by saying thank you) — and to bad ones. It may not be fun, but replying to every comment can help customers feel acknowledged and heard. And in many cases, a straightforward, empathetic response can turn a bad experience into a good one.

What if you get a bad review?

Don’t worry! Every customer’s experience is different, and if you’re collecting reviews, there’s a good chance you’ll see a negative one pop up in the bunch.

You already know that the most important action is to respond. So, make sure you have a response plan in place in case you’re tasked with replying to a bad review. Having a few standard replies drafted ahead of time can help.

When you reply, use consistent language, but try not to repeat yourself and risk sounding insincere. Stay civil, sympathetic and reasonable. Take conversations offline (and off the review site) if necessary by recommending a direct message instead. And make sure to respond quickly.

Using an online reputation manager such as RepuGen or MedPB’s Online Review Builder can help you monitor patient reviews that appear on your site, as well as other review sites, and ensure that nothing slips by unacknowledged.

Responding to reviews in a timely manner will help your patients understand how much your organization values their time, loyalty and feedback. Similarly, by soliciting reviews — and sharing them among existing and new patients — you can demonstrate to your prospective patients (and your providers) that providing comfort, convenience, and quality care rank high among your priorities.

Do you need help building your doctor bios or strategizing your web content? The digital experts and content strategists at WriterGirl can help you create a better content experience to grow appointments and build patient relationships. Contact us to get started today.