Doctors, practices, and their staff all have a brand. And like any brand, it must be protected.
I’ve spent years helping struggling doctors grow revenue and find more time in their day, and I’ve discovered that when you have a strong brand, patients engage more, and they’re willing to invest with less analysis, cynicism, and caution.
Think of strong brands such as Nike, Apple, and Coca-Cola. Branding is more about the perception of excellence than about the perception of a good deal.
That’s the perception you want for your practice. And that’s why you need a strong brand.
Negative press will instantly and immeasurably harm a brand. To avoid this, doctors should consider reputation management to help protect their brand.
Here, we’ll take a look at what that means for you and how you can get started protecting your brand in three easy steps.
What is reputation management?
Reputation management means knowing what’s being said about you and taking a proactive response to enter the conversation constructively.
But how do you know what people are saying?
Patients and prospective patients primarily use online search results, review sites, and social media to evaluate and find new doctors.
According to a Software Advice survey:
- Eighty-four percent of patient respondents use online reviews to evaluate physicians
- For 77% of respondents, reading online reviews is the first step taken when searching for a new doctor
- Favorable reviews would motivate 47% of respondents to choose an out-of-network doctor with similar qualifications over one with less favorable reviews
In addition to the myriad reviews websites out there, there are also forums, Twitter, and Facebook where people may be talking about you, your staff, and your practice.
Is reputation management worth the effort?
Regularly monitoring your web results may seem like a daunting task.
After all, according to a 2012 article in the Annals of Family Medicine, the average primary care physician has about 2,300 patients under their care at any one time. And they’re all online.
But—think about Amazon. How many products have you not bought because of negative reviews? This applies to your world as well.
How do I begin?
So, how can you develop a system to help ensure that patients speak well about your practice online and thereby help ensure you maintain a steady stream of new patients?
Here are three simple steps you can take:
1. Act right offline
When a patient has a wonderful experience, they will tell the world about it.
Likewise, when a patient has a bad experience, they will tell the world about it.
The key to having a good reputation online is not giving patients much to complain about, but also giving them plenty to rave about. Offer patients a good experience, and they’ll reward you with a positive reputation and help you build a strong brand.
Ensure you and your staff create a positive patient experience from their appointment’s beginning to its end. Here are five ways you can ensure a good patient experience:
(For more details, check out “The Best Doctors Enhance Their Patient Care With These 3 Tips.”)
1. Acknowledge the patient. Always greet patients with a smile, a hello, and their name when possible. Have a staff member take patients where they’re going, instead of pointing or giving directions.
2. Introduce yourself. A little camaraderie and pleasantry makes a huge difference.
3. Give the patient an estimate. Tell patients how long it will be until the doctor sees them.
4. Explain the procedures. Give patients as much information as you can, as soon as you can, including:
- What you’re going to do
- What you’re hoping to learn
- What outcomes you’re expecting/hoping for
- What the potential resolutions include
5. Say “thank you.” Always end a patient visit with a fond farewell and an invitation to return.
2. Act right online
Today, what you or your staff say to patients can live forever online, for everyone to see. Prospective and existing patients continually document the good, the bad, and the ugly online.
If you don’t already, begin to scrutinize what you and staff say online. According to Software Advice, 60% of respondents say they feel that it is “very” or “moderately important” that doctors take time to respond to online reviews.
But while it’s important to respond, it’s more important to respond correctly. Never get into arguments with any prospective, current, or former patients online. What you say will live in perpetuity, and you will live to regret it.
Instead, when someone has a complaint online, follow these steps:
- Acknowledge their pain.
- Apologize that they had this experience. Even if it’s not your fault, show compassion and care.
- Explain what you’re going to do differently, or are already doing differently, to prevent this pain in the future.
3. Be proactive
Proactively conduct an online search of your name and your practice’s name weekly.
If you don’t have the ability to do this, then designate someone on your staff to do it for you. You should be checking the following places to keep track of your digital reputation:
- Search engine results. Use a variety of keywords such as your name or your practice name, or even your last name and the city and state where you live.
- Local directory listings. Find out which local directories your competitors are listed on that you aren’t by Googling their names. Check out this site for a list of free online directories.
- Social media. Register profiles for your practice on each social media site that you know your patients use. These include but are not limited to Facebook, Twitter, SnapChat, and Instagram. Monitor your pages and profiles daily or weekly for mentions, comments, and direct messages.
- Physician rating and review sites. There are a plethora of review sites today, including Yelp, Healthgrades, and ZocDoc, where people can leave reviews about your practice. You should visit these sites on a weekly basis to get a better idea of what patients are saying.
What many doctors fail to realize is that their name and their practice is also a brand. A strong brand creates emotional appeal, and many patients book appointments based more on brand impression than price or outcome data.
Reputation management, when handled appropriately, could potentially increase pipeline flow, decrease obstacles to prospective patient entry, and increase your revenue.
Think of reputation management like planting a tree and then ensuring that it has a strong root structure. It will aid your reputation and root your future revenue.
To learn more about how to run an effective practice check out these posts:
- 3 Medical Practice KPIs You Should Be Monitoring, But Aren’t
- Medical Practice Marketing: How Answering Common Questions Can Grow Revenue
Looking for Medical Practice Management software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Medical Practice Management software solutions.