Convert negative online practice reviews into wins

With a survey showing that 77 percent of patients use online reviews to find their next doctor, physicians’ only real choice is to embrace these critiques from their patients.

But that requires equal measures of introspection, willingness to change and timeliness in responding to reviews online. What patients have to say can make a difference in attracting new patients, according to the survey by Software Advice.

The fact is, even the most conscientious physician can receive a bad review from a patient whose appointment was delayed 30 minutes. It’s how and when you handle negative reviews that can help your practice stand out from the competition, writes Alex Membrillo, a marketing consultant, in Medical Economics.

Review sites such as Yelp and Healthgrades are just more likely to attract patients who want to write about their negative experiences, according to Membrillo. What’s important is having some templated responses--which you can tweak based on the specifics of a particular review--and then responding in a timely manner.

Language is key here. He recommends that practices use “we and I” statements. His recommended response to a review from a patient unhappy about time spent waiting for their doctor? “We often see a spike in appointments during certain hours of the day, which we’ve been working to improve.”

Still, the hardest work begins after you’ve responded to the online review. Practices have to not only be willing to make changes to their business operations but they also need to communicate the fact that patient feedback drove those changes, according to Membrillo.

Acting on online reviews really can help improve patient care. For example, Utah Medical System, which began posting physician reviews online in 2012, attributes that transparency to dramatic improvements in mortality rates, safety and efficiency scores, costs and even malpractice rates, as previously reported by FiercePracticeManagement.