Barring substandard patient care skills or front desk staff, it is very easy to for physicians to get good patient reviews and boost their healthcare marketing efforts.
Here are a few simple steps to take
- Make sure your physician practice is “found” on Google Local Search
Google your specialty (e.g. “eye doctor”). If your practice or physicians are found anywhere in the search listings, you can get started. Otherwise, create your google listing (very simple to do) before you start your healthcare marketing process.
- Document your current reviews – where to improve from
Google your practice and your physicians names. Note the reviews in a spreadsheet on the date that you googled. That’s your baseline and you will improve your healthcare marketing from there. Update this each week, on the same day.
- Google your competitor medical practices’ reputation next
Google your practice and your physicians names. Note the providers and practices that google shows around your search results. These are your competitors on google. Note the reviews in a spreadsheet on the date that you googled. That’s your baseline and you will improve your medical marketing from there. Update this each week, on the same day.
- Decide which physician reviews websites you care about
Don’t compete on every review website. Focus your practice marketing on 1-2 websites (very time consuming unless you use software) like Google local search, ZocDoc, Healthgrades, Vitals.com, RateMDs,Yelp, Facebook
- Set up google alerts for your own medical practice
Use google alerts (a little weird, but still works) for yourself to alert you about any news (positive/negative). Go to https://www.google.com/alerts and type your name on google search, surround it with quotes, add an alert. This is part of your physicians healthcare marketing approach.
- Decide – doctors’ reviews or reviews of your medical practice
If you get reviews for your practice name, it has more resale value. If you get reviews for physicians, it has less resale value. Your marketing should improve your resale value. Choose to market your business , not just yourself or your doctors.
- Inform practice staff and physicians that you are concentrating on getting patient reviews
Tell everyone in your practice that your marketing strategy is now concentrating on getting more patient reviews. Conduct a small training session for physicians and staff on how to ask for online reviews from patients
- Designate someone on your staff to monitor your reviews daily, respond to SMS and calls from patients
Yes, daily.. It takes 15 mins to do so if you do it on a daily basis rather than waiting for an entire week to wrap it up. This helps physicians marketing strategy IMMENSELY. Designate the same person to respond to each and every review (good or bad) diligently. Teach them how to be very careful about not exposing any PHI information in review responses. Maintain a simple spreadsheet of outcomes. E.g. 30 requests sent, 10 responded, 5 reviews left, date. That’s all.
- Select a software that integrates with your EMR or at least start with a spreadsheet
It’s a lot easier to do this regularly if you use patient reviews software that’s tied to your EMR. But, if you cannot get this done, then use spreadsheets.
- NO Review Gating / Two step review process
Avoid the temptation to pick and choose which patients to send reviews requests to as this defeats the process. Send reviews requests to everyone and drown out the negative reviews with the good ones. Trust me – this will help your medical marketing strategy multifold.
- Try out various versions of reviews request SMS/email
Start with 4-5 different templates of review requests and see how each one performs. Track this in your marketing spreadsheet and see which ones perform better. Over a few weeks you will find the winners. Don’t change these every day.
- Ask the patient to post their review online
Many patients will just respond back to your SMS with their review. Some will also post their review online. For patients that just send SMS responses, follow up and request them to post their review online. Healthcare marketing is a game of numbers. You will never have 100% response rates, so don’t fret that.
- Send review requests to patients when they leave your practice
If you text patients within 10-15 mins of their leaving your practice, response rates go up. Do this diligently. This is easier to do if you use some software, but you can STILL do this manually. At the end of the day, marketing is about actually doing this every single day that you see patients.. Not in bursts..
- Update your spreadsheet to monitor progress
You started with a spreadsheet that’s a baseline of your physician marketing strategy. Track outcomes, update this spreadsheet daily/weekly. Rinse, repeat, keep at it.
FAQs about getting patient reviews
This is the most important step and also the very first step in assisting your marketing efforts with patient reviews. A couple of ways that you can do it:
While you are near or in your office location(s), google your specialty e.g. “eye doctor near me” — see the results and note how many sites you are listed on.
If you are away from your office location, google your specialty around your office location e.g. “eye doctor in bronx” — again, note the results and see how many reviews sites you are listed on (e.g ZocDoc, Vitals, Healthgrades, Yelp, RateMDs etc).
You can google a provider directly “Dr Sheldon Rabin” — again, note the results and see how many sites you are listed on (e.g ZocDoc, Vitals, Healthgrades, Yelp, RateMDs health.usnews, webMD, doximity, md.com, sharecare.com etc).
Note that your name might show up even though you might not have listed yourself on a medical review listing website – that happens when patients themselves add your name / your practice’s name on these reviews websites.
You need to have a baseline of where your medical reputation currently is – however good or bad. The best way to do so is to google your providers and then google your practice as well.
You can google a provider directly .. type any provider name.. eg. “Dr Sheldon Rabin”
Do that for each one of your providers
– Google your practice and note the reviews
– Google your practice e.g. “new york ophthalmology reviews”.
You need to know where you rank.
– If you have multiple locations, then google in each location.
– new york ophthalmology, jackson heights
– new york ophthalmology, jamaica
– new york ophthalmology, Bronx
Note those review counts down
Google your competitor medical practices’ reputation next
You know your competitors within the 4-5 block radius. Drill into that a bit further and truly understand what you are going to have to beat.
Keep in mind that just because YOU think someone is your competitor, it does NOT mean that Google thinks they are your competitor.
So, you are also going to need to figure out who Google thinks is your competitor. In this particular case, you will see that your competitors will always be listed right around your listing as well.
Those are the folks that are constantly going to try to drive google search traffic away from you.
Here’s how you google your competitor’s reviews
Again, note all those down.
Check competition on other websites like ZocDoc, Vitals, Healthgrades
Don’t stop with Google alone.. Try out the others like ZocDoc, Vitals, Healthgrades etc
Healthgrades, for example, is going to “suggest” other doctors right next to your provider’s name..
Keep in mind that these are the folks that are possibly going to get your patient.. While you are not looking.
Decide which online medical reputation websites you care about
You need to decide which websites you are going to monitor and manage your online reputation on.
Of course, the gut reaction is “all of them” – but keep in mind that unless you are using some reputation management software to do this for you, you don’t have unlimited time (nor do your staff) to manage and monitor your listings.
Narrow down on a few choices. The top ones seem to be:
– Google local search (of course, google is the king and always will be)
– ZocDoc – they spend a lot of money on advertising
– US Healthcare news
Do NOT forget to check your listing on each one of your payers’ provider directories.
Also, do keep in mind that at a minimum, you need to show up where your immediate competitor shows up (i.e. as many websites) and you should also have at least 1 extra website where you are being listed – where your competition does not.
This is the most valuable part of your marketing strategy. Reviews top them all. Google (the search master) wants to present the most relevant search results and counts google reviews.
There are some great articles from folks that have dug deeper into this (e.g. here, and here) to find proof. Of course, before Google went all-in into reviews, ZocDoc and the rest had already been doing it for a while, with a niche of medical SEO and medical reviews.
Google shows its own reviews and on the side results, it also shows reviews from sites it trusts. E.g. see “new york eye and ear”. See how it is showing reviews from Facebook?
There are a few sites that google trusts reviews from. Those are the sites you need to consider in your reviews strategy.
In general, you will not be able to nor want your patients to post the same reviews on multiple sites. It simply is not going to happen because you cannot ping the patient twice to provide the same review on multiple sites.
What you can do instead, is to figure out your patients a bit more and ask for reviews, then let them provide you a review wherever they usually provide reviews.
E.g. for some practices, Facebook users account for more than Google/gmail users. When you ask for a Google review, google asks the user to login to their google account. Some people still do not use gmail accounts and don’t have a google account.
Same goes for ZocDoc, vitals, Healthgrades. These sites ask your patients (that came through them) to provide reviews. This means that the appointment has to be made on their website (e.g. ZocDoc).
Keep your options open.
I have personally always concentrated on Google reviews. They own search. I want to be on their platform. Simple.
Whether you listed your practice on those online reviews websites or not, you will notice that someone or the other might have listed you on those websites (patients). The first step is to “claim” those listings.
After verifying your practice details, you are allowed to own your own listing on these websites. Regularly monitor these review sites for yourself and your immediate competitors. You can just set up reminders on your own calendar (or your staff’s) to monitor your online reputation at each one of these sites every 15-20 days.
It’s quite simple and it really does not take you more than 15-30 mins to get it done (each time). Just create a simple spreadsheet with your listings: Date, Website, Rating
… and so on
Simply bookmark your listings, visit them each time, check your ratings, add an entry to your spreadsheet.
Set up google alerts for your own medical practice
Use google alerts (a little weird, but still works) for yourself and your immediate competitors. You can easily monitor yourself or your practice name using google alerts. To do, simply go to https://www.google.com/alerts and type your name on google search.
E.g. “new york ophthalmology” and add an alert
You will start getting alerts whenever that name is mentioned / discovered by google.
Don’t do it. If you cull out patients that you believe are not going to leave good reviews, keep in mind that Google frowns upon such behavior and calls it reviews gating.
There’s a pretty extensive article here – read that up. Of course, you want to protect your reputation by gating reviews, but as the study shows, not gating reviews allows you to gather MORE reviews.
And according to Yelp, Google etc.. more reviews is better than having a few, gated, positive reviews. The penalties are also steep – so, be careful if you are planning on practicing review gating (I strongly discourage it).
Instead, here’s what you should do to avoid future headaches.
Get so many reviews that the few negative reviews are diluted / drowned out.
Conduct a small training session for providers and staff on how to ask for online reviews from patients. Make it simple – It should be as simple as
– Noting if the patient is happy with your provider / their appointment
– Asking them to confirm that they found everything to be OK
– If the patients do thank your practice for the great service (staff and providers), ask them gently – “Thank you so much for saying so. If you have the time and don’t mind it, could you please leave us a review on Google or facebook? I can text you the link”..
– Then proceed to text them the link. Stop right there. Don’t push any more.. The patient will leave a review on their own time.
If the patient didn’t have a good experience, they will tell you that.
At least you have the opportunity to set things right – then and there. Make sure they are happy before they leave your medical practice. Designate someone on your staff to monitor your reviews daily. It takes 15 mins to do so if you do it on a daily basis rather than waiting for an entire week to wrap it up. Designate the same person to respond to each and every review (good or bad) diligently. Teach them how to be very careful about not exposing any PHI information in review responses.
All responses should be generic ones (i.e HIPAA compliant without revealing any PHI).
Your staff cannot confirm that the patient did actually have an appointment at your practice or what they were seen for. They can only thank the patient for providing a review and to ask them to call the practice to resolve any issues the patient had with your practice – that’s pretty much all you can do in your responses to patients’ reviews. Designate this person to also respond to SMS and calls. I’ve found that even though you sent an SMS with a review request, patients tend to use that same phone number to call and SMS your practice.
– Provide a tool for your staff to send patients reviews links.. Nobody on your staff would want to share their personal cell phone number with patients, so, in all probability, will not send patients SMS from their own mobile.
– Give them a tool / software for getting Patient Reviews.
– Select a software that integrates with your EMR or at least start with a spreadsheet
The ideal situation is where the reviews software ties in with your EMR to pull all the patient data, be able to send out an SMS within 10-15 mins of the patient leaving your practice.
However, if you do not have that luxury, don’t despair.
At a bare minimum, start with daily spreadsheets of patients that you want to send SMS to. For this, all you really need to do is to export all patients that were seen today, from your EMR. These exports are usually in the form of spreadsheets. Just download the daily spreadsheet, find the mobile number of the patient and prepare to send the review SMS.
That’s it. A daily, regimented practice for getting patient reviews.
I think of the medical practice (business) as the surviving entity. Doctors can (and will) come and go. If you ask patients for reviews of your doctors, the reviews will also walk out the door when the doctor leaves your practice. It is better to get reviews of your business (medical practice) itself.