Most patients today look up your hospital or physician practice on the web before scheduling an appointment. Understanding their perspective – and therefore understanding what brings them through the door – is all about knowing how they find a doctor’s reputation online.
If your practice is like most others, you have made educated guesses or compiled some data on the healthcare search process, but you might not have the complete picture. More than 60% of patients start their search online, and 40% rely on online reviews to find a doctor, according to Binary Fountain’s 2019 Healthcare Consumer Insight survey. Moreover, a 2018 Patient Access Journey Report by Kyruus reports that 91% of patients conduct research online, even after receiving a referral for a medical provider.
What does this mean? Consumers want access to convenient, quality care and are willing to do their own research to find it. Though a search may start by asking a friend, patients are finding doctors’ reputations online before scheduling an appointment.
How much would it help your facility to fully understand how patients are finding physicians through an online search? The short answer: a lot.
In this article, we’ll cover all the ways that patients find out about a doctor’s reputation online, preparing you to build a strategy for managing and improving those reputations.
Consumers want to know what people are saying about their experience at your medical facility and the quality of care you provide.
In general, patients look at online reviews at see how you are rated in the following areas: Quality of care, cost, wait times, experience with staff, ease of booking appointments, accuracy of diagnosis, and amount of time spent with patient.
Google uses online reviews to determine what businesses and services will take the best care of their users and are more likely to show those organizations in local searches. Many variables impact local search engine result pages beyond the number and quality of doctor reviews, but having quality patient feedback will help your practice rank in search results.
Google’s algorithm is specifically looking for:
- Number of patient reviews
- Recency of reviews
- Overall star rating
- Proactive engagement by business owners (responding to reviews)
Google already knows that most users want local results, especially when it comes to medical services, and will automatically display the most locally relevant providers above all else.
Supplying this data can help you appear in search results and will also help you attract new customers, because healthcare consumers trust online reviews as much as a personal referral. You should take your online reviews seriously and monitor them often to understand which operational improvements you can make to increase patient satisfaction.
Doctor Review Sites
Healthcare-specific review sites are among the most important places to monitor as you build a complete picture of your doctors’ online reputations. Create and maintain profiles on the most popular doctor review sites such as Healthgrades, Vitals and ZocDoc, as these platforms have massive reach and factor into your search rankings.
ZocDoc allows patients to find providers, book appointments, fill out health forms digitally and leave reviews and ratings. While providers cannot know whether patients will always leave positive online reviews, this site helps doctors gain reviews by requesting feedback from every patient after a doctor visit.
Vitals also aims to be a single source for health information, with over 1 million physician profiles currently on the site. Upon finding a physician, the patient can view their profile, book an appointment, read more about the provider and view the provider’s reviews. The platform currently boasts over 9 million reviews and ratings, making it a treasure trove for nailing down a doctor’s reputation.
Healthgrades is similar to Vitals in many ways, allowing users to categorize their search and containing a comparable number of reviews and profiles on its platform. It also has resources to help providers increase positive online reviews by sending postcards and emails to previous patients, encouraging them to leave a review on the site.
One of the more intuitive doctor review sites, RateMDs, has a knack for knowing what patients truly care about. In addition to having more than 1 million reviews, its five-star physician rating system is broken into categories like Punctuality, Helpfulness and Knowledge. Patients can chime in specifically on things like cleanliness, treatment from the staff and overall value, too.
On CareDash, patients can browse doctor profiles and compare doctor ratings and reviews, as well as leave feedback from their own experiences. Claiming your CareDash profile will help you gain trust from potential patients and nudge them toward booking an appointment with you. Through a partnership with Binary Fountain, patient experience (PX) scores are now featured on its nationwide network of physician profiles.
What Wellness.com lacks in elegance, it makes up for in information and functionality. Online users can find everything they need when looking for providers and doctors on this platform, from accepted insurance to education history to special services. Wellness.com also offers tools for featured advertising, boosting search engine presence and reputation management.
According to a 2014 survey from Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, more than half of Americans focus on personality and relationships when choosing a physician. And personality shines on social media.
To cross paths with potential patients online, your organization should have a presence on major social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and even Instagram.
While healthcare providers should certainly maintain social media profiles for their business, and make sure reviews are up to date, individual physicians could also benefit from a social presence.
With a rise in the number of doctors using social networking sites, it’s easier than ever to use social media to determine the personality and attitudes of a doctor before meeting them. Giving your patients a view into your providers’ social media pages increases transparency and builds trust.
Physician reputations are displayed all over the web, far beyond Google, Healthgrades and Facebook.
Many private or nonprofit sites provide information at no cost to patients. These range from professional boards that certify doctors to those that are advertising-based or charge fees to doctors and practices to be listed.
On the profit-making side, insurance company sites attract high traffic from patients searching for care. Several health insurance organizations have built doctor reference sites for customers to use. With doctors adding and dropping plans as often as they do, you should update insurance information for your practice frequently. But don’t fret: In a 2019 Software Advice survey, nearly half of respondents said they would go out of their insurance network for a provider with favorable reviews.
Government sites also provide information about doctors licensed in their states. For example, the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) website lists basic data through its DocInfo.org search function. You will find the doctor’s board certifications, education, states with active licenses and any malpractice-related actions against the physician.
Boost Your Reputation and Get Found
Physicians with the best online reputations don’t wait around for a five-star rating. Showing that you are an expert in your field and active in the medical community will go a long way to building trust for a perspective patient.
Here are some quick tips for proactively maintaining your physicians’ online listings:
- In addition to establishing expertise, try to win the local SEO battle for your specialty. This means focusing on search engine optimization tactics to get your practice on the first page of Google, Yelp and the rest.
- You may not be able to change the physical location of your facilities, but you can make sure your phone numbers, locations and hours of operation are all correct, so patients know how to find you.
- If your practice has claimed a Google My Business profile, you should also build out the Q&A section, providing common questions and answers users might type in a search query.
Generally speaking, the more reviews you have, the stronger your doctor reputations will be, even if some reviews are negative. Do your best to obtain more reviews for your practice, and be sure to respond to negative reviews in a way that’s helpful and authentic.
Don’t wait for your doctors’ reputations to build themselves. Be proactive, monitor your listings and dominate local physician searches to stand apart from competitors.
Want to learn more about how Binary Fountain can give your online reputation a boost?
About the Author
Content Marketing Specialist