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Jerris Heaton


Reputation Management in Healthcare: How Online Reviews Shape Patient Choices

March 6, 2024


EHR, Patient Portal 9 Minute Read

Access to reliable healthcare-performance measures has become increasingly critical for today’s quality-conscious consumers. In fact, 57% of patients now place a higher priority on the quality of care when making healthcare decisions, underlining a significant shift toward quality over convenience or cost. Further complicating the patient decision-making process, there are now over 1 million active healthcare providers in the U.S. This heightened scrutiny and abundance of choice has led over a third of patients to research hospital quality before deciding on a provider, highlighting a proactive approach to healthcare choices in today’s digital landscape.1

As such, today the reputation of healthcare practices is increasingly shaped by online reviews and testimonials, also known as electronic word of mouth (eWOM). As a crucial factor in forming consumer perceptions and trust, the advent of eWOM offers new opportunities and challenges for healthcare practices aiming to stand out in a competitive market. This article aims to explain this trend and explore effective strategies healthcare practices can adopt to leverage online reviews and testimonials.

The Evolving Landscape of Online Reviews in Healthcare

While convenient for consumers, the explosion of businesses moving online has led to an information overload, with consumers facing choice fatigue. This scenario underscores the pivotal role of online reviews, not just in e-commerce but also in traditional healthcare settings. With more than half of consumers now consulting reviews to make informed decisions about healthcare services, healthcare providers should be shifting their business strategies to help nudge consumers along the healthcare decision-making journey.

As consumers today expect information readily available at their fingertips, eWOM now stands at the forefront of this shift, acting as a vital informal yet highly informative channel. While apprehensions about public review campaigns and the potential for negative feedback persist within healthcare practices, research indicates a balanced tendency among consumers to share both positive and negative experiences online.2 Far from being merely a risk, negative reviews offer a unique opportunity to address concerns, improve service quality, and strengthen patient-provider relationships, ultimately further enhancing the practice’s reputation and trust in the community.

This evolving landscape suggests a critical need for healthcare providers to actively manage their online presence, embracing both positive and negative feedback as tools for growth and improvement. By understanding and leveraging the dynamics of eWOM, healthcare practices can better position themselves among competitors, ensuring they remain at the forefront of patient preferences by offering transparency, responsiveness, and a commitment to excellence in care.

Building a Robust Online Presence

As patients increasingly invest more time in researching healthcare quality, healthcare practices must actively cultivate their online reputation through a multifaceted approach that includes encouraging patient feedback, simplifying the review process, and engaging with reviews both positive and negative.

The art of managing online reviews requires a nuanced strategy. Positive feedback serves to reinforce patient loyalty, showcasing the quality of care provided; practices should celebrate and share positive reviews to build trust and highlight the successes of their care. Conversely, negative feedback offers a chance for practices to demonstrate their commitment to continuous improvement and patient satisfaction. Addressing negative reviews with thoughtfulness and promise for resolution can significantly mitigate their impact, often transforming critics into advocates. This balanced approach not only enhances a practice’s reputation, but also leverages feedback as a strategic asset for growth.

By integrating these strategies, healthcare providers can ensure they remain at the forefront of patient preferences, offering transparency, responsiveness, and a commitment to excellence in care. This not only maintains a positive image, but also fosters an environment of credibility, which is an essential component of thriving in the competitive healthcare market.

Amplifying Impact through Patient Testimonials and eWOM

The dedication to effective reputation management not only fosters greater patient satisfaction and trust but also emerges as a key driver of business performance. As highlighted by an Accenture study, hospitals delivering superior patient experiences are rewarded with financial performance that outpaces their peers by 50%, demonstrating the tangible value of patient loyalty to a practice’s financial health.3 Moreover, the impact of patient advocacy is powerful, with contented patients typically recommending services to about 11 others.

On the other hand, dissatisfied patients may share negative experiences with approximately 15 people, amplifying the potential loss beyond a single patient to a broader audience.4 This scenario underscores the importance of being attuned to patient experiences, as unrecognized negative feedback can lead to not only the loss of immediate revenue but also diminish the prospect of future patient relationships.

In this scenario, the pivotal role of amplifying the impact of patient testimonials and eWOM is clear for healthcare providers. It is essential for providers to forge clear and accessible paths for patients to share their experiences, prominently featuring such testimonials on websites and social media platforms. However, prioritizing the genuineness of these testimonials and securing patient consent is crucial in upholding trust and credibility. This strategic approach not only enhances a practice’s online presence, but also aligns with an intelligent business strategy that values the cultivation of patient relationships and loyalty.

Implementing a Proactive Reputation Management Plan

Building upon the foundation set by leveraging patient testimonials and eWOM, the next strategic step involves crafting a forward-thinking reputation management plan. This comprehensive approach not only safeguards a healthcare practice’s online presence but actively enhances its reputation through strategic engagement and feedback implementation.

Step 1: Establish Your Online Reputation Baseline

  • Audit Existing Online Presence: Begin by assessing your current online reputation. This involves checking all mentions of your practice across review sites (such as Healthgrades, RateMDs), social media platforms, and Google Business Profile listings.
  • Identify Key Review Platforms: Determine where your practice is most frequently reviewed or discussed and prioritize these platforms for monitoring and engagement.

Step 2: Set Clear Goals and Objectives

  • Define Success Metrics: What does a successful online reputation look like for your practice? It could be improving your average star rating on specific platforms, increasing the number of positive reviews, or enhancing patient engagement online.
  • Use SMART Goals: Ensure your objectives are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound (SMART).

Step 3: Monitor and Manage Reviews Regularly

  • Leverage Monitoring Tools: Utilize online tools and software that can help track mentions of your practice across the web. Tools like Google Alerts, ReviewTrackers, or BirdEye can provide real-time updates.
  • Assign Responsibility: Designate team members to monitor these platforms regularly, ensuring timely responses to patient reviews and feedback.

Step 4: Engage with Reviews Constructively

  • Respond to Negative and Positive Reviews: Acknowledge and thank patients for positive reviews. Address negative feedback with empathy, offering to resolve issues offline if necessary. This demonstrates your commitment to patient satisfaction.
  • Implement Feedback: Use insights gained from reviews to make concrete improvements in your practice.

Step 5: Encourage Happy Patients to Leave Reviews

  • Create a Review Request Protocol: Develop a process for asking satisfied patients to leave reviews, whether through your Patient Portal, follow-up emails, text messages, or in-person requests at the end of their visit.
  • Make It Easy: Provide direct links to your profiles on review sites to simplify the review process for patients.

Step 6: Utilize NPS Surveys to Enhance Reputation Management

  • Integrate NPS Surveys: Implement Net Promoter Score (NPS) surveys as part of your patient follow-up process. This single-question survey asks patients how likely they are to recommend your service to others, providing a clear measure of patient satisfaction and loyalty.
  • Analyze and Act on NPS Feedback: Regularly review NPS results to identify areas for improvement. High scores can be leveraged in marketing materials, while low scores can indicate areas needing attention.

Step 7: Train Your Team on Reputation Management Best Practices

  • Educate Your Staff: Ensure your team understands the importance of online reputation and how they can contribute positively. This includes training on customer service, handling patient complaints, and the protocol for encouraging reviews.

Step 8: Review and Adjust Your Strategy Regularly

  • Conduct Periodic Reviews: Regularly assess the effectiveness of your reputation management strategy against your set goals. This includes analyzing changes in your online ratings, patient feedback trends, and NPS scores.
  • Be Adaptive: Be prepared to adjust your strategy based on new trends, platform updates, or changes in patient feedback patterns.

By following these steps, healthcare practices can develop and execute an effective online reputation management strategy that not only improves their online presence but also enhances patient satisfaction and loyalty. Remember, reputation management is an ongoing process that requires consistent effort and adaptation to changing online landscapes and patient expectations.

Elevate Your Practice’s Online Reputation

As shown, a strong online reputation is indispensable for healthcare practices aiming to thrive and grow. By actively managing online reviews, leveraging patient testimonials, and utilizing tools like Patient Portals for efficient communication, practices can significantly enhance their standing in the eyes of current and prospective patients.

As such, ChartLogic recognizes and intimately understands the needs of healthcare providers. We have specially designed a suite of services to assist healthcare practices in managing their online reputation and improving patient satisfaction. Schedule your free live demo today and learn how we can help you navigate these complexities and more.

Sources:

1: https://b2b.healthgrades.com/insights/blog/2024-healthgrades-specialty-excellence-report/

2: https://www.hche.uni-hamburg.de/dokumente/research-papers/rp5-world-of-mouth.pdf 

3: https://newsroom.accenture.com/news/2016/us-hospitals-that-provide-superior-patient-experience-generate-50-percent-higher-financial-performance-than-average-providers-accenture-finds

4: https://about.americanexpress.com/press-release/wellactually-americans-say-customer-service-better-ever



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