Engage Your Patients to Improve Physician Online Reputation Management

When choosing a physician, word of mouth can play an important part for many people, and now it’s all available online. Physician reviews matter heavily to people deciding on what physician to see for their care. Managing your online reputation may seem like a daunting task since information can be found through so many outlets on the internet. To start, you can begin monitoring your reputation in three key areas that will make a big difference: review sites, social media and in the office.

Why Your Online Reputation Matters

People are talking about you and your practice online, whether you’re out there engaging or not. They share their experiences on social media, they search and submit their own reviews. As younger generations continue to rely more on online reviews than older patients, managing your online reputation will remain an important aspect of maintaining your business. 

The limitations of physician review sites are well-known to most of us, but not always to patients. Reviews often focus on inconveniences beyond your control - in some cases, patients leave a negative review when they come in expecting to receive a medication even when advised that it's not the best course. Negative reviews don’t equate to poorer outcomes or quality of care. 

Despite these limitations, your patients are online, so it is essential to be vigilant and monitor your online reputation. Start simple by managing your online reputation in these three key areas. If it becomes overwhelming, outsource some of the work to office staff or freelancers.

Key Area 1: Physician Review Sites 

What to do: Regularly check these sites for new reviews and respond accordingly.

Keep an eye on the major platforms, including HealthGrades, Yelp, RateMDs, Google and Vitals. The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) finds that 60 percent of patients think online reviews are important for finding a physician. Take a few steps to make these sites work for you:

  • Ensure your information is accurate on your online listings. Check your specialties, address, phone number and hours. Check any links to your website or social media feeds to make sure everything points in the right direction.

  • Respond to positive reviews. Thank them for their feedback. Tell them you’re happy to have them as a patient.

  • Respond to negative reviews. For negative reviews about issues beyond your control like rude staff or long wait times, assure them that you’re looking into what happened and always striving to improve the office environment. Avoid making excuses; stay positive and reassuring. For negative reviews about care, offer to contact them offline. Even if the patient shares protected health information, HIPAA laws do not permit you to continue the conversation with specifics. Ask them to call the office, so you can discuss their situation further, or, if you know the patient, ask if you can schedule a call.

  • If you manage to resolve an issue, ask the person to consider revising their rating online.

Zocdoc found that physicians who increased their overall rating by half a star saw an average increase of 37 percent in monthly appointments.

Key Area 2: Social Media

What to do: Share and engage.

Social media allows you to be proactive in putting out messages about you, your staff and your office. You have a way to share reputable health information, new technology in your office or exciting changes happening in your practice. 

Social media can be overwhelming for many of us, so it’s important to keep this limited to just one or two platforms. Facebook is still the most popular social network, with about 68 percent of U.S. adults with accounts. Other top social media choices to reach the younger generation are Twitter and Instagram.

Pro tip: Follow others practitioners who are using social media well, such as KevinMD, Doctor Mike and Wendy Sue Swanson.

Key Area 3: The Office

What to do: Ask for reviews. (And provide a great office experience.)

A good review starts with a good experience. A patient's experience starts with the first time office staff picks up the phone. Many times, the actual care you provide isn’t part of the review. Bedside manner and wait times are two of the most common complaints patients have about seeing the doctor.

The first step to getting better reviews is to listen. Are there recurring issues that pop up in reviews of three stars or less that can be addressed through workflow or training? Do you understand what your patients want in terms of care and convenience?

When you’ve done what you can on the office side, begin asking patients if they’re satisfied with their care and if they’d be willing to leave a review. You can provide a tablet with Yelp or other review site and allow them to post a review before they leave, or ask if you could email them with a link to a ratings site or two that they can complete at home. 

By being aware of reviews and proactively managing your online reputation, you’ll be poised to attract new patients.


Learn more about Kareo Engage, a powerful online reputation management and practice growth solution.

About the Author

Patricia Chaney is a freelance writer specializing in the healthcare industry. She has more than a decade of experience writing for physician, executives and...

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