Despite all the time and energy put into medical practice websites, content and advertising, online reviews are one of the most trusted and frequently consulted sources for patients. Yet many medical practices leave patient reviews to chance. In this article, I’ll lay out some simple strategies we use to help our clients grow their patient reviews.
The Importance Of Online Reviews
Online reviews aren’t just a research tool; they’re a trust signal. When considering a physician or medical practice, reviews provide reinforcement for a patient to choose a provider. In fact, according to a 2018 survey by Doctor.com, “Nearly 60% of respondents have chosen one provider over another based on a positive online reputation.” They’re also an important factor in search engine optimization and can be a primary driver of organic traffic and leads.
Why Do Many Medical Practices Struggle With Reviews?
We hear about two common struggles with reviews from medical practices. The most common is that practices are uncomfortable asking for reviews. It feels too high-pressure or awkward, and practices are afraid it will strain the patient relationship. This perception is usually misplaced.
The second common struggle we hear from medical practices is that when they do ask for reviews, they don’t get many. This usually means that they aren’t asking in the right way, at the right time and with the right tools.
Local Listings: The Foundation Of Reviews
Before you begin expanding your patient review collection, it’s important to ensure that your location listings contain the correct information. We often start with Google My Business, as it’s one of the top review platforms, and the information you create can easily be syndicated to other directories beyond Google. You can do this using listing management tools. There are a number of these kinds of software and services you can find with a simple Google search. Make sure to read the fine print to understand the features and limitations of the tool you select.
One common listing management challenge we run into is that practices often have listings for both the practice as well as the individual physician. While Google allows you to have both doctor and practice listings for one location, this can cause issues with some review management platforms because other directories might see them as conflicting locations because they have the same address.
In general, we recommend that business listings on review management platforms be focused on the practice, not the physician. In fact, there are separate platforms just for physician reviews that can help you create and distribute those physician listings to the appropriate platforms. Remember that you may need a strategy to grow both practice and physician reviews if you go this route.
Now that you have your practice’s listing information correct, you can begin to grow your reviews.
Growing Your Patient Reviews
Here are three key strategies to grow reviews. It’s important to remember that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach, but make your primary objective to automate the process and scale your efforts.
1. Automate Email Requests For Reviews
Automating requests is an ideal way for medical practices to collect reviews, and it’s the strategy that’s likely to have the most impact on generating a large number of reviews. After an appointment, send an email asking for a review. Timing can mean the difference between positive and negative reviews, so it’s important to establish rules. For example, if you’re a plastic surgeon performing a tummy tuck, don’t send out that request a few days after surgery, but rather after a follow-up appointment. Ideally, this should be a completely hands-off process automated through your email system. The best way to automate review collection via email is to use a customer relationship management system to create a workflow that will send an email request to patients individually as they meet the conditions you outline.
2. Consider Collecting Reviews In Your Office
An alternative to sending out automated emails is to collect reviews in your office before or after appointments. This can help drive reviews when your practice is top of mind. Simply add a tablet with the request to review pulled up in the browser. Remember, though, that it’s not enough to just add the tablet; make sure you include a sign to call out the purpose of the tablet, or have your front office let patients know it’s there.
An in-person review collection strategy may not be the right fit for all practices. For example, if you consistently have long wait times, you likely won’t collect the quality of reviews you want. We’ve also seen challenges for practices offering procedures where recovery or results are delayed. For those kinds of practices, the automated email approach may work best, as well as the next approach.
3. Selectively Identify Patients For Reviews
Asking for reviews is key, and sometimes that doesn’t happen through marketing. In fact, one of the simplest strategies to grow reviews is to ask the patients that you know have had positive experiences. It’s common that patients will share stories. If you know someone has had a positive experience, encourage them to share for the benefit of other patients, as well as the growth of your practice. You may be surprised how often they say yes. It’s up to your practitioners to identify these patients, and it’s often best to ask them in person, with a follow-up email to remind them a day or two after their visit.
Think Long Term
Growing reviews doesn’t usually happen overnight, and the majority of your patients may not take the time to write reviews. But by using the strategies above, you can increase both the quantity and quality of reviews over time. A few reviews each week start will add up in the long term. It’s an investment in building trust, generating word of mouth and differentiating your practice — all things you may not want to leave to chance.