Not all medical professionals are comfortable with the idea of marketing their practice. Self-promotion is not easy fit with the focus of our training: to heal sickness and preserve quality of life. But as the economic power in healthcare shifts from third-party payers to patients and the business of medicine becomes increasingly consumer-based, the need to promote the services we offer as healthcare providers becomes apparent.
Here's a marketing tip—patients can be your best marketing partners. You can harness the power of patients who express satisfaction with your care by asking them to write and post online reviews, as well as rate your practice on selected websites. In an era of consumer-driven healthcare, posting feedback from patients is a powerful way to promote your practice.
Reviews can be posted on:
- Your practice website
- Medical directory sites such as Zocdoc and Healthgrades
- Business rating sites such as Yelp
- Social media sites such as Facebook
Understand the significance of online reviews
How important are online ratings and reviews in shaping the choices of prospective patients? Evidence indicates they are powerful influencers of consumer behavior, both in the broader market of goods and services and the healthcare marketplace.
According to one survey, 88 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendations. Consider that most online reviews are posted by total strangers and you begin to realize the remarkable changes in the consumer mindset in the internet age. People are willing to trust the digital crowd as much as their family and friends.1
For my personal small practice, our biggest source of new patients is the excellent reviews and recommendations to those looking for a new provider on a large local Facebook group.
Be aware of government & commercial ratings
In addition to patients, the federal government and commercial payers are also giving physician on-line reviews. These may focus on performance on quality measures or consumer-focused metrics or both. For example, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services rates medical providers using clinical data such as surgical complications, infections, readmission and death rates, and other quality metrics.
Both types of ratings can be have an impact. One study compared the effect of ratings from commercial websites focused on non-clinical factors to ratings based on clinical measures provided by the government. Commercial ratings proved at least as or more important to patients in the physician selection process.2
In my opinion, government ratings pale in comparison to the power of patient-driven ratings and reviews to drive new patients toward your practice. So my advice is to certainly understand the rating systems used by CMS and commercial payers, since doing well on these has other important benefits to your practice, but as a means to attract patients to your practice, your efforts are better spent elsewhere.
Keep the specter of negative reviews in perspective
Introducing the topic of online reviews by patients brings up the specter of negative reviews, a sensitive topic for any business but especially sensitive in healthcare. No doubt unfavorable reviews are a possibility, and these reviews may be based on misunderstanding, unjust, and even vindictive in nature.
However, the internet is here to stay, and online reviews of medical practices are now a permanent fixture in the landscape of digitally-driven healthcare. Your best bet is to accept this reality and be proactive in encouraging and managing online reviews as part of your marketing strategy.3
There is some good news. Studies show that most reviews are positive. A study of one popular website for rating doctors, for example, found an average score of 9.3 out of 10.4
Understand what drives positive reviews
For example, a doctor whose record indicates high hospital readmission rates or less-than-ideal outcomes but who has a great personality and communicates a caring attitude may get excellent ratings and reviews from patients. In the era of consumer-driven healthcare, a good bedside manner is a marketing skill.
Ask for feedback
Insight into factors valued by patients can help you adapt to today’s consumer-driven healthcare marketplace. If you understand what motivates patients to give doctors good ratings and reviews, and you are confident in the ability of your medical practice to deliver a positive care experience, then there is no reason to hesitate. Use patient ratings and reviews as tools to market your medical practice.
These ratings and reviews are essential to your online presence, and your online presence can be key to future growth. The best way to boost your online ratings and reviews is to directly ask for feedback. Ask patients to whom you've delivered quality care and with whom you have a strong, supportive relationship to rate and review the services you provide.
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1 Jayson DeMers, "How Important Are Customer Reviews for Online Marketing?" Forbes, December 28, 2015, https://www.forbes.com/sites/jaysondemers/2015/12/28/how-important-are-customer-reviews-for-online-marketing/#2fa544aa1928.
2 Niam Yaraghi. "When choosing a doctor, patients prefer online reviews to government ratings." Brookings. March 29, 2018. https://www.brookings.edu/blog/techtank/2018/03/29/when-choosing-a-doctor-patients-prefer-online-reviews-to-government-ratings/.