By JOEL HEADLEY, PatientPop
70% of Patients Prioritize Your Online Reputation
Today’s healthcare patient is not the same as 20 years ago. Empowered by access to information and an abundance of healthcare choices, today’s patient is an active consumer more than ever before. By Google’s own estimates, 1 in every 20 Google searches is healthcare-related, translating to roughly 100 billion health searches a year.
Who’s going online to “search” for healthcare? Most people. A 2019 survey reveals 3 of 4 people (74.6 percent) have researched online to discover more about a doctor, dentist, or care service — and more than half do so regularly. Even among patients who have received a referral from another provider, 91 percent said they will always or sometimes conduct additional online research, according to a report by Kyruus.
A fundamental part of any healthcare provider’s online presence is their reputation, the experience conveyed by way of online patient reviews. People rely on the opinions of others — especially those in their community — to help form their decisions about healthcare, just as they do with restaurants and vacation spots.
If you haven’t been keeping track of your online reviews, here are 5 reasons to start:
1. Patients check reviews when choosing providers:
Roughly 70 percent of people consider a positive online reputation to be very or extremely important when choosing a healthcare provider, according to a PatientPop survey on online reputation. In the same survey, patients listed reviews as the top online resource affecting their decision-making, named by 59 percent of patients. According to BrightLocal, 78 percent of people trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
Patients expect to see enough information online to get a sense of what it’s like to visit a practice before booking an appointment. Along with basics like address, phone number, hours of operation, and services, reviews are an essential source of information, so it’s especially important for providers to keep an eye on their reputation to make a good first impression with potential patients.
2. Reviews help boost search engine optimization:
In Google search, everyone is gunning for the top spot … and with good reason: According to Chitika, the first page of Google generates 92 percent of all search traffic, and data shows that the lower you rank on a search results page, the fewer clicks your link will receive. According to Advanced Web Ranking, the top organic Google result has a click-through rate of about 31 percent, the second result has about 15 percent, the third receives almost 10 percent, and that rate gets progressively smaller as you move down the page.
A practice’s online reputation, however, can actually improve their website’s rank in search results and help fuel their digital marketing strategy. According to Moz, Google considers overall review presence part of a business’s online prominence, affecting as much as 15.4 percent of local search contributing factors. Review signals include the total number of reviews, the rate at which new reviews are posted, and the number of different sites on which a practice has been reviewed.
3. A steady flow of reviews helps build patient trust:
When patient reviews are submitted consistently, the three critical components of online reputation can see improvement: a practice’s (or provider’s) total number of reviews, average star rating, and frequency with which reviews have been posted. According to BrightLocal, consumers consider the average star rating the most important review factor, and PatientPop data shows most people posting reviews have only submitted positive comments — roughly 60 percent — so a steady stream of reviews can naturally help elevate a practice’s overall rating.
Even if a healthcare practice has a high average star rating, it’s important to continue paying careful attention to online reviews to ensure strong performance across all three essential reputation elements. According to BrightLocal, consumers require an average of 40 reviews before they trust a business’ star rating is accurate. Plus, 85 percent of consumers think online reviews older than 3 months are irrelevant, so it’s especially important to continue asking for feedback from patients.
4. Practices can stay on top of negative feedback:
A recent provider survey showed that less than half of practices actively monitor their online reputation; yet, it’s imperative to track online reviews and respond directly to any dissatisfied patients. 70 percent of patients say it is important that providers respond to negative feedback.
Ignoring patient feedback can be seen as poor customer service by potential patients assessing your practice online and can lead an unhappy patient to look elsewhere for care. By responding to unhappy patients — promptly, concisely, and staying within HIPAA regulations — providers display a professional, caring demeanor to that patient and prospective patients.
Responding to negative feedback is also a key to patient retention: PatientPop survey data reveals that when providers respond to negative reviews, the rate of patient satisfaction doubles, improving 99 percent.
5. Reviews reveal gaps in the patient experience:
Finally, patient feedback of any kind informs a practice what they’re doing right … and what aspects of their operation could use improvement. The patient experience in any medical office affects how people talk about that office elsewhere, both online and in person. Direct feedback and online reviews give healthcare providers real-time insights on what patients like and dislike about a practice visit.
Physicians can use positive feedback to identify and promote a market differentiator for their practice and can use negative feedback to understand what needs addressing. If a provider group doesn’t know their waiting room chairs are uncomfortable, they might find out from a patient and wouldn’t have known otherwise.
Considering there are dozens of review sites where patients can leave online reviews, the process of staying on top of every review can seem daunting. An online reputation management service can help compile all your online reviews in one place and deliver alerts, so you never miss any feedback, positive or negative. Software that automatically sends out patient satisfaction surveys can also result in a consistent stream of feedback. As more feedback comes in, healthcare practices will have more to track – but also more to benefit from.
Joel Headley is director of Local Search and Marketing at PatientPop, an all-in-one solution empowering healthcare providers to improve every digital touchpoint on the patient journey. A leader in practice growth, the Santa Monica-based company works with practices nationwide to help attract more patients, manage online reputation, modernize the patient experience, automate the front office, and integrate with the most widely used EMRs for a holistic approach. For more information, visit patientpop.com.