Is your practice looking for more patients?
Do you really need to be asked? Of course you are looking for more patients.
Wouldn’t it be nice to get results like this:
“Our practice has encouraged happy patients to leave a review on RateMDs.com… after a few months of persistence, we have risen to the top of the pack and are averaging over a dozen new patients from that site alone”
–Dr. Todd A. Rhoades
“We are currently on pace to receive about 90 new patients this year as a result of our concentrated efforts on the popular site Healthgrades.com”
-Dr. Susan C. Copeland
All across the United States, practices have witnessed a rise in competition, a decrease of margins, and more difficulty in getting paid timely by insurance companies.
Everyone knows about the undeniable power of getting to the top of Google — there is no more effective alternative — but search engine optimization is not appropriate for all practices.
In these cases, your practice can often leverage powerful patient/doctor review websites, such as Healthgrades, RateMDs, Yelp, Zocdoc, and others in order to become incredibly visible to any prospective patients. If you can “get to the top” of whichever review site is most beneficial to your practice, then you can actually see a similar influx of new patients.
Worried about negative reviews?
While a valid concern, most of the negative reviews of a given practice come from unprepared practices. This step-by-step guide will show you exactly how to prepare your practice in order to ensure you receive stellar reviews.
Provided your practice prepares based off the content of this guide, you will be in a position to receive exceptionally high reviews.
1) Determine the most beneficial doctor review site to ask patients for reviews on
Many practices understand that having a positive reputation online is important, but most practices do not have a thorough plan of how to actively seek a positive reputation.
Your practice may ask patients to give reviews, but is your practice asking patients to give reviews on a particular site? Do you know with certainty this site is going to generate the most new patients?
If not, you’ll need to determine which review site makes the most sense to invest your time and energy accumulating reviews.
The running examples used in this article will be a general practice that determined the most beneficial review site was HealthGrades:
2) Fill out a profile on the chosen review site
In the running example, the general practice would register on HealthGrades and fill out a profile:
It is critical to fill out your profile picture and complete your information in as detailed a manner as possible. This will allow your profile picture to stand out compared to a doctor who does not have that information completed.
Patients are twice as likely to interact with a completed profile.
3) Assess and analyze the competition
Our hypothetical office wants to rank first for “general practice” in our practicing city. The first step is to see what level of competition already exists, to give us a better idea of the quantities of reviews we might need to rank first.
Here is what the breakdown looked like before we started acquiring reviews on HealthGrades:
The HealthGrades review page is split into 2 sections. The first section consists of two featured physicians sponsored by a local hospital:
As you would expect, users are less likely to click on featured physicians. This is similar to how ads on Google get clicked on six percent of the time compared to organic results (this is why search engine optimization, the strive to get to the top of Google, is so valuable).
On this particular results page, users would be even more unlikely to select one of these two featured options because the first physician does not have any ratings, and the second physician only has a 4.0 rating over 12 reviews.
In addition to featured results, the page also displays “organic” physicians:
Here, we see three physicians – all with 4.0 star ratings. Two physicians do not have a profile picture, and one does. Now that the competition has been explored, it is time to determine how we can garner a higher rating.
If we click into the first non-featured listing (since that is currently #1), we will see the following screen:
A closer look determines that there are 8 metrics used for grading the patient visit:
Office & Staff
- Ease of scheduling urgent appointments
- Office environment, cleanliness, comfort, etc.
- Staff friendliness and courteousness
- Total wait time (waiting & exam rooms)
- Level of trust in provider’s decisions
- How well the provider explains medical condition(s)
- How well provider listens and answers questions
- Spends appropriate amount of time with patients
This information is absolutely critical.
We are learning what strengths and weaknesses our competition has. More importantly, we know what questions prospective reviewers will be asked.
In other words, we know what we will need to prepare for:
- Our office needs to be swift in scheduling urgent appointments (if the reviewer does not have an urgent appointment, they will likely give us a grade that is related to the rest of their review. In other words, if we gathered five stars for other questions, we will likely receive five stars here)
- Our office must be clean and comfortable (are your magazines or reading materials outdated? Do you offer Wifi?)
- Our staff must be extremely friendly and courteous
- We must be promptly seeing patients (waiting times of over 15 minutes tend to lead to negative reviews)
On the actual visitation side:
- We must act confident in our decisions and know our information as providers
- We must listen to the patient attentively (hold eye contact, nod knowingly, and do not stay buried on a phone or computer)
- We must not jump in and out of the room, looking to move from one patient to the next. We should feel comfortable talking about non medical topics, reviewing the patient’s past visits sufficiently, and making sure the patient does not have any further questions before leaving (remember, if a patient feels like they did not get all of their questions answered, even if they did not ask them, that can negatively affect a review)
Again, this is a CRUCIAL takeaway. Every member of the practice needs to understand what grading scales are being used and how patients will review the practice.
If you perform this test and determine a review site other than HealthGrades is appropriate for your practice, make sure to review your site’s specific review questions.
There should be staff meetings about this initiative in an effort to ensure everyone understands the goals and grading systems.
4) Acquire Reviews
Once we have prepared ourselves to score well on any reviews, the next step is to actually ask patients to leave reviews.
Let’s go through some good and bad ways to ask for reviews, because there is a little mix of both art and science in the delivery:
Make it known that you value reviews, referrals, and relationships
Whenever your office encounters a new patient, whether it is on the phone or in person, you should absolutely ask where that persons came from. You can gently spin your words and offer a subtler question, such as:
“Who may we thank for referring you to us?”
Asking this sort of a question tells the patient that your practice values relationships, and that you expect to have referrals. Clearly, a practice that has poor service would not expect many referrals.
Additionally, show that you care about reviews by posting a sign with a set of instructions on how a patient can review your practice. More on this below.
Do not ask patients to give reviews “mid-treatment.” Ask them once they are healthy.
If you were considering buying a product, would you give a review on it before you bought it?
Would you review it before you opened the box and used it for a while? No, you would not. The reason is because you are not sure if you made a good purchase yet.
The same is true for your practice’s patients. If someone comes in because they are under the weather, surely they will not be interested in leaving a review until they are feeling better, and the medicine that was prescribed was proven effective.
Do not ask that patient for a review yet. Instead, ask them after they have recovered.
What if they do not return to the practice for a follow up visit? In that case, staff members should manually follow up with the patient. A gentle follow up call is a great way to confirm the patient is feeling better and presents an opportune time to ask for a review.
Do not ask every patient to review your practice. Ask only loyal patients and happy patients.
There will be patients who walk into your practice in a poor mood, or patients who you cannot provide a good experience to no matter how hard you try (you would likely be very satisfied creating a happy customer experience 99% of the time, but even then 1% of customers will be dissatisfied).
It may be obvious, but it’s worth mentioning: don’t ask those patients to provide a review. There is no need to make it more difficult to have a positive reputation online.
Opposite, repeat patients are the best prospects to ask for a review from, so take advantage of that opportunity.
Do not hound a patient for a review, but rather ask no more than once or twice.
Remember, we want to guide happy, positive patients to leave reviews. If we harass patients until they leave a review… that will jeopardize the potential outcome of the review. Here’s a great example from an Amazon review:
You’ll want to avoid this situation.
Provide explicit, easy to follow instructions on how to leave a review
The following is a poor way to ask for a review: “if you liked your service, leave a review with us online!”
Your practice needs to make it as easy as possible to leave a review. If you were Doctor Tsarsky and wanted reviews on HealthGrades, you might have the following instructions on paper:
Notice the weird looking link in bullet point one.
You’ll want to present your patient with a link to complete the review directly as opposed to saying something drawn out (“go to healthgrades.com. Then search for ‘Dr. Tsarsky’ but make sure the city is correct because there are 819 Dr. Tsarsky’s in the United States…” etc.). You can bring the user to the exact page where they leave a review, and present the link in an easy-to-use fashion.
This link is called a “bit-ly” link – bit-ly is a link shortening service. In reality, the URL that Dr. Tsarsky wants the patient to go to would look something like this:
However, it is unrealistic to expect the person to type that in their phone or their web browser. Instead, what you should do is navigate manually to the page where the patient would leave a review. Then, copy that link and navigate to bit.ly and customize it. Here’s a quick tutorial video (with directions below the video):
[hypotext target=”bitly”]Expand this text box for the text instructions of the video you just saw:[/hypotext]
[hypotext id=”bitly”]Let’s walk through the process again.
First, we copy the link that we want patients to navigate to in order to leave a review (this link is broken since Dr. Tsarsky is a fictitious physician):
Then, we would navigate to to http://bit.ly and sign up for an account. Once we had done that, we would paste the link into the shortening box. Now, we are ready to edit the link. You’ll notice a little box that says “customize” when you go to edit your link:
This box allows us to type in a custom 6-10 character code. Make it something simple, like the name of the doctor. These links are CASE SENSITIVE, so make everything lowercase for simplicity:
You now have the knowledge that will enable your practice to rank first on the optimal review site – netting your practice dozens to hundreds of new patients each year.
You can achieve this level of success by following the rules outlined throughout this guide:
- Understand what review website is optimal for your practice’s unique situation. You can easily determine what site to “go after” by using SearchTides’s free guide
- Understand the power of a fully completed profile, with a professional picture. In our example, some of the competition did not have a completed profile – which hurts the chances of acquiring new patients.
- Know the questions prospective reviewers will be asked when writing a review on the site you have chosen. Prepare beforehand and receive the highest grades.
- Remember when to ask for a review. Put yourself in the shoes of your patients and think of what makes sense. A car mechanic would not ask for a review of his service while your car was still in the shop, and you should not ask for a review before the patient has had a positive experience
- Do not push for reviews. In order to ensure high marks are achieved, it is important to avoid the patient feeling forced into a review. Let a valued patient know it is the most valuable way they can “say thanks,” but do not continue to ask. No one leaves a five star review in a state of frustration.
- Make it easy to leave a review. In the example card, our practice reduced the complicated review URL to something simple. We also mentioned the process only took 30 seconds. The easier you make it for your patients, the greater the chance they leave a positive review.
Now that you have the knowledge of how to rank first overall on a review site, make a plan within your practice.
If you need help determining which of the 20 or so review sites is ideal for your practice to target reviews on, you can use SearchTides’s free cheat sheet: how to select the perfect review site to rank for.
This article is part of The Definitive Guide for Healthcare Practices: Thriving Online series. The Definitive Guide is over 13,000 words and is completely free to access. The guide walks through every critical topic your practice should be considering: from online branding, to social media, and precise patient acquisition strategies.
The Definitive Guide for Healthcare Practices: Thriving Online
Analyzing Your Practice (Recommended Reading First)
[Branding] How to Brand Your Practice and Skyrocket Revenue by 792%: The more competition increases, the more dangerous it is to be known as “another healthcare practice.” This article provides step-by-step instructions on how to brand your practice, and how to unlock the small amount of patients who could be responsible for the majority of your revenue.
[Competition Analysis] How to: Uncover These Hidden Competitive Advantages: Do you know which of your competing practices are online? What are their strategies? What specific tactics should your practice use to outperform the unique strategies your competitors are using? This guide shows you exactly how to use the internet to uncover what works and what does not work — and then reveals how to put your practice at the front of the line.
Specific Marketing Strategies
[Leveraging Review Sites] 34 New Patients in 52 days From One Simple Technique?: There are over 25 doctor/patient review sites and 4 million reviews online. 60-80% of patients perform research online prior to reaching out to a healthcare professional. This guide lays out the exact plan needed to effortlessly leverage review sites and potentially bring in hundreds of brand new patients every single year.
[Social Media Strategies] How to: Copy this Facebook Strategy for Shocking Results: In this social media article, specific strategies are discussed for Facebook. What time of day to post, how many days a week to post, what content to post, and how to find or create that content are all explicitly laid out.
[The Power of Search Engines] This Dirty Patient Acquisition Secret Will Make You Shudder: Lots of industries benefit from copious advertising opportunities through social media and the entire web. Unfortunately, healthcare cannot benefit for many of these categories. This article breaks down the exact elements your practice should stick with, and what the pros and cons of each method are.