You’ve heard about the new sushi restaurant in town. You want to try it out, but what’s your first step? Google, of course. You check to see how many Yelp stars it’s won, you read all the reviews, you ask members in your social circle if they’ve tried it yet. Movie night? Before making your film choice, you go right to your browser to find out the ratings on Rotten Tomatoes or take a recommendation from a trusted friend. Today, no matter what the service, be it restaurant, hotel, new car, spa, dog groomer — yes, even physician — decisions are made based upon costumer reviews and word of mouth. Today’s empowered patients are consumers, just as we all are. (Read more about giving patients the tools to engage in their own healthcare.)
Why Reviews Matter
In a recent survey, 62 percent of people asked said that they had used online reviews to find a new doctor. What’s more, 26 percent of patients surveyed said they’d be willing to go out of network for a physician who has higher online reviews.
Inversely, however, bad reviews or lack of online presence entirely can result in a loss of new and existing patients, significantly impacting a practice’s revenue potential. As the age of the consumer and the shift toward patient-centered care converge, reviews and reputation matter more and more. Of course, best social media and marketing practices aren’t exactly included in the years of medical training physicians undergo (physicians are expected to figure these things out on their own, along the way). So on top of everything else an independent physician has to worry about in today’s rapidly changing landscape — between balancing new requirements, MACRA/MIPS and everyday clinical workload — we understand what an extraneous burden new trends like physician review websites must feel like. But the fact remains: The more positive patient reviews and online visibility you can garner, the more patients you’ll get into your practice. Here are a few ways to help your practice achieve that online reputation you want.
Assess Your Online Presence
Your first step is to find out where you stand on physician review websites, or if you’re present at all; you want prospective patients to be able to find you in the sea of other options they have. Conduct a simple search for your practice or individual physicians at your practice on Yelp, Health Grades Inc, Zoc Doc and other similar search tools. If you find yourself listed, make sure your information is correct.
Next, what do the reviews say about your practice? Your staff? If you’ve reaped mostly positive reviews, great for you and your group. If you’ve somehow managed to garner some bad reviews, there are effective ways to rectify the situation.
Don’t Fire Back at Bad Reviewers
So you have some bad reviews. Every business experiences a bad review here and there, but when patient complaints become the norm, it’s time to start paying attention and take action. You may be tempted to rebut any criticism — but in doing so, you may not only violate HIPPA; you could also turn off any potential patients considering your practice. Instead, you or a staff member can simply respond, in the comment section of the reviews, that you thank them for their feedback and could you discuss the matter privately?
You can also respond to the review by highlighting positive changes you’ve made in your practice to address problems. Whatever you do, don’t get drawn into a public debate with a patient and or let the discussion get heated on your end whatsoever. Remain professional and courteous — even if the patient in question does not.
How Your Practice Management Software Can Affect Patient Reviews
In addition to physician bedside manner and quality care, most patients leave reviews to evaluate staff friendliness and efficiency. What many may not have considered, though, is that other factors beyond the natural personalities of the individuals hired to man a practice can affect overall staff friendliness and competence. For example, when your software doesn’t promote efficiency, your front office becomes bottlenecked with unnecessary burdens on staff, such as manual duties holding up other, more important tasks. These tasks may include manual data entry, too much time on the phone scheduling appointments, verifying insurance eligibility, and fielding patient questions — and they all contribute to burnout. Add to this frustration, angry patients having spent far too long in a packed waiting room, and what you have is a perfect storm for an unhappy office environment … and a bucketload of bad patient reviews.
Boost Front Office Efficiency
An effective, several-pronged strategy to combat this worst-case scenario is to boost your front office efficiency. Ultimately, the effect of streamlining this part of your practice’s workflow will trickle down into your patient reviews. After all, staff efficiency goes a long way with patients.
Some easy ways that the right software suite can promote fast and competent front office functionality include:
- Automated Medical Eligibility Verification: Make sure your software offers simple electronic eligibility verification at the point of care, and can verify Medicare as well as hundreds of other payers. Couple quick verification with the ability to create a chart directly from the eligibility check, within seconds, and save an extraordinary amount of time, right away.
- Online Check-In: When patients can check in via a user-friendly patient portal, from anywhere at their convenience, you’re eliminating a lot of time spent in the waiting room as well as manual data entry to be performed by the staff. No one likes sitting in an overcrowded waiting room; this function alleviates frustration for both patients and staff.
- Online Appointment Requests and Prescription Refills: Again, when patients can make these requests online without having to spend time on hold, waiting for call backs — and when staff can focus on duties other than fielding phone calls — you’re creating a happier, win-win situation within the front of your office.
- Choose a Software Vendor that has Partnered with a Physician Finding Tool: Integration with physician-finder tools such as Zoc Doc will help augment your patient population, give you more online visibility, and reveal a hidden supply of appointments. Read more about the ZocDoc and MediTouch integration.
Stay tuned for more tips on marketing your practice, gaining more patients and improving your online presence.