What Can Doctors Do To Earn Positive Reviews
The increasing popularity of doctor review and rating Web sites is causing plenty of angst and trepidation in the health care community. Rating movies and books is one thing, but reviewing a doctor seems to be something completely different. Like it or not, patients are posting unsolicited opinions on an ever-growing list of sites like Vitals.com, Dr.Score.com and RateMD.com. Even Angieslist.com, the subscription service known for recommending plumbers and decorators, is now in the business of rating doctors.
Although only about 22% of patients are currently using doctor review sites, the numbers are expected to grow. A recent Wall Street Journal/Harris poll indicates that 91% of patients are interested in referring to doctor ratings for information on trust, communications, medical knowledge, availability and office environment. Searching for doctor ratings online is also favored by younger generations, who are comfortable using the Internet to guide their decisions. As those consumers age, their use of health care will grow, which is likely to have a direct impact on the increasing usage of doctor rating sites.
Like it or not, it looks as though doctor rating sites are here to stay. Therefore, what can a doctor or medical practice do to create and maintain a positive online reputation and a better doctor review profile? Here are five tips to help doctors influence their online ratings and minimize the effects of negative reviews:
1. Complete your profile on doctor rating sites.
Several websites, such as WebMD, offer doctors the opportunity to insert information about their practice online. Going online to register only takes a few minutes, and it allows you to post current and accurate information about your practice. By making the effort to create a complete online profile for your practice, patients will recognize that you are engaging online and listening to their feedback, which helps create a good first impression on the site.
2. Give your patients guidance about doctor rating sites.
While it's impossible to prevent patients from using rating Web sites, you can help them evaluate which sites provide the most reputable and relevant information. Some sites feature only numerical ratings by patients, while others allow patients to write comments. A few of the sites provide information about doctor certifications, or link to databases that patients can search. As more rating sites are developed, some will report quality and patient experience data, as well as patient comments. You can expect to see cost and outcome information on the web in the near future. Knowing what sites have the most accurate and helpful information will help you and your patients make the best of this technology.
Creating a simple handout advising patients to look for sites with higher numbers of reviews by patients (resulting in more accurate ratings), and informing patients on how to research their doctor's medical experience will help them make good decisions about which sites to use, and may cause patients to think of you and doctor rating sites in a positive light.
3. Provide an easy way for patients to submit feedback about their patient experience.
What health care professionals fear most about user-generated comments are negative or vindictive comments from unhappy patients. Thankfully, these are the minority, making up fewer than 10% of all comments, according to research on consumer product review sites, but they can have a disproportionate effect on a doctor's reputation. The biggest reason patients vent online is because they feel there is no other way to voice their concerns. Similarly, the biggest complaint that doctors have about rating sites is that there is no way for them to respond to negative comments.
While it won't be possible to eliminate all negative comments, you can significantly reduce their number by making it easy for patients to express their concerns directly to you. This can be a simple email sent to a patient after an appointment, a brief follow-up call or a mailing to get feedback about their experience. Place a sign in your office inviting patients to express concerns and have patient feedback forms readily available. If a patient is dissatisfied it should be easy for him or her to raise their concerns. This gives you the opportunity to respond and prevent the negative online venting that occurs from people who feel like their feedback wasn't heard.
4. Periodically check sites for "easy" fixes.
Although most ratings on doctor ratings sites are positive, many of the complaints left by patients aren't about major issues. Most complaints deal with smaller issues such as waiting too long for an appointment or feeling that the front desk staff is unfriendly. Such small annoyances can easily be corrected and eliminated.
Visitors to online rating sites frequently consider the most recent reviews to be most indicative of performance; so, if you are able to address concerns shown in older comments, you will reduce their significance. In fact, you can benefit from admitting to patients that you are addressing concerns brought up on the doctor rating sites. This simple action helps patients feel that you are listening to their feedback, which increases appreciation for any improvements.
5. Encourage your patients to submit their feedback to doctor rating sites.
Most doctor review sites are predominantly filled with positive comments because satisfied patients are usually happy to write online reviews. Even though dissatisfied reviewers are more aggressive in posting their opinions, they are usually only a very small percentage of your overall patients. As a result, when more patients review a doctor online, the reviews become more positive and accurate.
If your happiest patients aren't recommending you, it's probably because it hasn't crossed their mind. If you want an overall positive online rating you need to be proactive in asking patients to rate you online. Send patients a follow-up email asking nicely for a rating, have a small card they can take home with them, or subtly bring the rating sites to their attention by clipping a positive review or two to a bulletin board. You can even ask patients to review their visit online - although don't pressure patients to strictly post positive reviews. The goal is to encourage as many patients as possible to rate you online.
To learn more about health care quality and consumer engagement, visit http://www.wowzamade.com/healthcare
Melissa Hillmyer is an Account Executive at Wowza. Wowza takes a multi-disciplinary approach to designing and developing health care data reporting Web sites and consumer engagement marketing campaigns. Wowza combines expertise in marketing communications, consumer branding, advertising, journalism, web development, and web usability to make complex health care information easier for consumers to understand.