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An Introduction to Online Reputation Management for Doctors

By Vahe Tirakyan
| 10/21/2022
6 min read

While not necessarily a new concept, reputation management has never been more important for doctors and surgeons. If you’re a physician or operate a medical practice and want to understand more about the importance of online reputation management, this introductory guide will provide a run-down on some of the key things you need to know.

The new medical reputation management playing field

Reputation has always been everything for medical practitioners. Every patient wants to ensure they are receiving the best possible medical care, and most patients will conduct some form of research to help inform their decision when choosing a physician.

Historically, this would likely involve speaking with their personal network of family and friends to gain insights about their experiences with the various doctors within the local vicinity—however, in today's environment, most patients will instead head online. In fact, a whopping 72% of patients start the search for a new doctor online!

The internet has now become a highly competitive playing field for doctors and surgeons looking to grow their practice, so if you’re not already paying attention to what patients are saying about you online, it’s time you started.

Why is online reputation management for doctors so important?

Reputation management for surgeons and doctors has evolved far beyond simply providing good customer service and avoiding accusations of malpractice. In the new connected world, medical physicians need to adopt a far more proactive approach to managing their online reputation to be able to attract new patients.

Disgruntled patients used to have very few avenues for retribution if they were unhappy with the quality of your services, however, the internet has created an entirely new dynamic. A single unhappy individual can quickly inflict some serious damage to your professional brand and reputation by simply publishing a couple of scathing reviews. 

Now here’s the real kicker—you may think online reviews don’t carry that much weight, but you couldn’t be more wrong. A recent study conducted by Bright Local identified that in 2021, 49% of people trusted online reviews as much as they trusted personal recommendations. 

Adopting a more strategic approach to online reputation management for surgeons or doctors will help you minimize the impact of any negative reviews and present the physician and clinic in the best possible light.

Getting started with physician online reputation management

You understand the importance of building a strong reputation online, but how can you go about it? Here are some simple things you can do to get started…

Conduct an audit to see what’s already out there

Before you can improve your online reputation, you need to see what patients have already said about you. Checking any Google reviews of your practice should be the first priority, but it’s also worth checking other popular review sites like Yelp, ZocDocs, WebMD, RateMDs, Healthgrades, Angie’s List, RealPatientRatings, RealSelf and even Facebook. 

Don’t be overwhelmed if what you find is resoundingly negative—remember that disgruntled patients are more likely to go online to release their frustrations. The good news is that it is possible to rectify the situation if you put the right feedback management strategies in place.

Consider the patient experience

Good reviews always start with a great experience. Before you can generate positive reviews, you need to ‘get your ducks in a row’ so to speak by ensuring you’re actually providing great service.

Map out what a typical patient journey looks like, then analyze what the experience is like at each step along that journey. Try to identify any pain points and implement measures to address any issues and improve the overall experience you’re providing.

Make it easy for patients to complete a review

It seems everyone is time-poor these days, so if you want to encourage happy customers to leave you a review, you need to make it really easy for them. Ensure you’ve claimed your Google My Business listing and include the link to complete a review on your website and with all your patient communications. 

It’s also important to offer avenues for patients to provide feedback privately, as this can be excellent for identifying any issues which require attention before they make their way to a public forum. Setting up an online feedback form is a great way to give patients the option to provide feedback privately or even anonymously.

Make it standard practice to ask for reviews

Most satisfied patients won’t think to complete an online review without being prompted, so to be able to build a solid base of patient feedback, asking for reviews needs to become standard practice. 

It’s also helpful to note that around one third of people will only be influenced by reviews published in the last three months, highlighting the importance of continually asking patients to complete a review.

Establish guidelines for responding to patient reviews

It’s good practice to respond to any reviews (both good and bad) published about your doctor or surgeon. However, it’s also important to establish clear guidelines about how you’ll respond to ensure you don’t accidentally create a PR nightmare for yourself. 

Keep your comments genuine, polite and professional, but remember that it’s extremely important to abide by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Even merely acknowledging that a patient attended your clinic is considered a confidentiality breach.

A good strategy is to avoid providing any specific details, reference practice policy, and encourage them to contact you directly if further resolution is needed.

Ensure there’s plenty of other positive content out there 

Websites (including reviews websites) are all competing for attention on search engines, so you can reduce the chances of prospective patients finding negative reviews by making them have to compete with more positive content.

Your website is your primary online asset and there are plenty of search engine optimization (SEO) techniques you can use to increase its rankings. 

A good starting point is to ensure it’s filled with plenty of relevant and valuable content including testimonials or feedback from happy patients. It’s also a good idea to introduce the various staff that work at the practice, and showcase the doctors experience and credentials.

Enlist some help from the experts

Still feeling a little out of your depth? Fret not—we’re here to help! 

As experts in every facet of medical marketing and reputation management, we’ll equip you with all the knowledge and tools you need to build a robust online presence and set you up to drive sustainable practice growth.

Contact us to get started

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