Healthcare consumers are playing a more active role in deciding their healthcare provider now than ever before.
According to a patient research report by Kyruus, 91% of patients conduct research online, making your online reputation extremely important. In the same study, researchers found 33% of patients found a medical provider on their own, without a word of mouth or medical referral.
But what do potential patients value the most in online reviews? What are the green lights that make them book an appointment and what red flags keep them from visiting your office?
If your practice or medical facility is like most, potential patients are going online to research your location and want to find convenient, accessible and patient-focused care.
What you will learn in this post:
- What patients are looking for in online reviews
- Why convenience is still king of the patient experience
- Why accessibility of care matters
- Questions you should ask to improve the patient experience
If you focus on these key areas, you can grow your practice by attracting new patients and retaining your current customer base.
What Patients Look for in Online Reviews
When it comes to your online reputation, perception is often reality. For practices, an online review is just as trusted as a referral. If you don’t have a good image online, potential patients will shy away from using your services.
When it comes to online reviews, most patients want to see:
- A large volume of reviews
- Recent reviews
- Overall star rating
- Practices engaged in responding to positive and negative reviews
- Quality of Care
We will go through the last three later in depth, but let’s camp on the first four for now.
Having volume helps patients see that many people trust you for their healthcare needs, and recent reviews show that the customer experience has either improved or declined over time. These two factors give patients a better idea of what to expect when they visit your location and how many people trust you to provide care.
According to our 2019 Healthcare Consumer Insights Survey, here are the top five online platforms patients used to find a doctor:
- Google 54%
- Hospital/facility website 48%
- Facebook 45%
- Health Grades 42%
- Instagram 29%
These are the sites your practice should prioritize when cultivating online reviews.
Your overall star rating also greatly impacts both your local SEO and the likelihood of someone clicking on your business listing. If you don’t have a star rating of 4 or higher, you may not even show up in Google Maps among other results for “best (practice) in (city)” queries.
Lastly, patients want to feel like their opinions matter and that the practice is actively engaged in listening to feedback. This means you need to be responding to both positive and negative reviews online.
We recommend responding quickly to negative reviews with an apology and a description of what you are going to do to resolve the complaint. This makes current patients feel like you value their opinion and potential patients feel like you are actively making improvements to your staff, operations or facility.
If you see a positive review, we recommend taking the time to thank them for their review and leave some kind of personal message that is in HIPPA compliance. Acknowledging when people give you a compliment is not only polite, it also makes it more likely that the reviewer will feel like you value their business (and they will be more likely to refer your business to people in their lives).
Now let’s take a deeper dive into convenience, accessibility and quality of care.
Convenience Matters Most to Patients
The most important factor patients consider when choosing a practice or provider is convenience in both the physical and digital world. This means you need to have a good physical location and an approachable online experience.
While changing your physical location may not be possible, there are things you can do to make sure you are showing up for the right potential patients and attracting people who would be most interested in your practice.
First, you will want to make sure you’re focusing on the right keywords for your location. While there will be more people searching for “dentist in Nashville,” if your practice is actually in Brentwood (a suburb of Nashville), you are better off optimizing around that term to drive the most qualified traffic to your site. If you need additional information on how to win the local SEO game, check out our article on how to dominate local search.
Next, you will want to make sure your online experience is top notch. This means you need a website that is easy to navigate and loads quickly or you will be losing business to competitors who do have that kind of user-friendly functionality.
Another aspect of a good user experience is being able to book appointments online and over the phone. Many health systems do not currently offer self-service scheduling without having to go through a patient portal, which can be a turn off for prospective patients.
This is why most patients currently prefer booking an appointment over the phone rather than booking online. According to our 2019 Healthcare Consumer Insights Survey, 47% of patients book over the phone while only 29% book appointments online.
That doesn’t mean the desire isn’t there, however – the number of patients seeking to book appointments online grew 100% from 2018. So, if you want to get a leg up on your competition, make sure the user experience on your website allows them to book an appointment quickly and easily.
Similarly, patients care about being able to access your practice easily with convenient hours, short wait times and accurate information online.
Patients want access to your facilities when it is convenient for them, which means having hours that are easily accessible for them. Being ill is already an inconvenience and they don’t want their ability to get in and see a doctor to be any more of a hassle.
Patients are looking for these qualities when evaluating your practice or facility:
- Convenient office hours (early or later hours so they don’t have to miss so much work)
- Weekend availability (when possible)
- Reviews that say your wait times are reasonable
- Open appointment availability
- Doctors that took the time to answer patient questions
- The necessary ADA compliance improvements
If you make sure that your online and physical presence is convenient, you are likely to attract more patients to your medical facility.
The Patient Experience is Crucial
The final and most important factor that patients are looking for in online reviews is quality of customer service and the level of care that you provide, or the patient experience. Patients want to know what people are saying about their experience at your medical facility and the quality of care you provide.
All of this can help you appear in search results and will also help you attract new customers because healthcare consumers trust online reviews as much as they trust a personal referral. According to our 2019 study, 48% of patients of said online ratings and reviews were a crucial factor in choosing a physician.
You should be taking your online reviews seriously and monitoring them often to understand what operational improvements you can make to improve your patient satisfaction.
According to the same study, these were some of the most important factors patients took into account while evaluating physicians based on online reviews:
- Thoroughness of the examination 41%
- Bedside manner 39%
- Ability to answer all questions 36%
- Including the patient in treatment decisions 33%
- Previous success in treating the illness 23%
None of these should be particularly surprising, but they are all important factors that patients are looking for when they are researching medical providers.
The patient experience should be an organizational focus for your practice, regardless of what job title someone holds. Every staff member should be expected to have people smarts when dealing with ill patients, particularly the caregivers on staff.
While you shouldn’t react too strongly to negative reviews (like firing a staff member after one complaint), negative feedback should allow you to see patterns of behavior or failures in your personnel or processes that require your attention.
Here are some of the questions you may need to ask:
- Is the staff friendly and welcoming?
- Are the doctors taking time to answer patient questions?
- Are we actively letting the patient play a role in their healthcare?
- Do we respect the family members of patients who voice concerns?
- Are we accurately diagnosing?
- Are patient able to get appointments quickly?
- Are our wait times reasonable?
- Is our facility welcoming and clean?
- Are we following up with patients after they visit your office?
- Are we responding quickly to voicemails?
Paying attention to what people are saying online about your patient experience will help you attract new patients and understand what you need to do to retain your current patients. While patient acquisition is great, retaining those patients and making them lifelong customers is the true value of paying attention to your online reputation.
If you care about your customers’ feedback and make the necessary changes, you should be able to grow your practice like never before.
If you need help getting started, check out our article on how to measure the patient experience for more information.
You Can Own Your Reputation Management
The most successful physician practices know what patients value and understand the importance of a good online reputation. Focusing on convenience, accessibility and the patient experience will ensure you are getting the kind of reviews patients will be looking for while researching providers.
At Binary Fountain, we have the software you need to track your practice’s online reputation across hundreds of platforms, all in one place. Get the clarity and the actionable insights you need to improve your practice’s patient acquisition and retention.
Download one of our free e-books or watch one of our on-demand webinars to learn more about how Binary Fountain can help your practice grow in 2020 and beyond.
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About the Author
Content Marketing Specialist