As business magnate Warren Buffet once said, it takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. Hospitals and other healthcare practices take many years to build solid reputations, but it only takes a matter of minutes for a patient to leave a negative review that then spirals out of control due to the viral nature of social media.
Today, when all businesses and organizations are at the mercy of online feedback, those in the healthcare industry need to be particularly wary of their reputations. After all, people tend to be much pickier about who they choose to take care of their health than which online store they choose to buy everyday commodities.
While doctors have long been careful to guard their personal and professional reputations, the hospitals that employ them have often been slow to keep up with the increasing ubiquity of user-generated online feedback. Many have also been slow to comply with the latest patient privacy legislation as outlined by HIPAA, which can leave your reputation vulnerable to disaster.
Start with the Search Engines
According to a study conducted by Pew Research in 2013, 72 percent of Internet users in the US turned to the Internet to seek health information. 77 percent of those used the search engines to find the information they were looking for. While there’s long been a debate about the accuracy of online health information, it’s important that you’re visible during their time of need.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is a complicated and multi-faceted area but, nonetheless, it’s an extremely important one. After all, people will most likely use search engines to look up hospitals in their local area as well as health advice. Building and protecting your online reputation means maintaining a strong presence in search engines.
While you have no direct control over how your practice appears in the search engines, there is a whole raft of things you can do to influence it. For example, if your hospital has received negative feedback that appears in the first page of the search results, you can attempt to bury it by leveraging positive feedback and publishing value-adding content of the type that patients are most likely to be looking for.
Local SEO is also of great importance. To establish a strong presence in the results pages, you’re going to want to make sure you show up alongside glowing ratings and reviews. To help make this possible, you’re going to want to be listed in the right directories, social platforms and other websites.
Know What Patients Are Saying
The first major step of any online reputation management strategy is to assess how patients perceive your practice online. Monitoring your reputation allows you keep track of what people are saying about you in real time, thus giving you the opportunity to respond quickly to negative feedback.
According to studies, 84% of patients turn to online ratings and reviews before choosing a healthcare practitioner. However, while the reputations of individual physicians are of utmost importance, some 60% of patients are interested in reviews of the entire practice as well. Researching the whole practice itself, rather than individual practitioners alone, allows patients to get a better idea of important factors, such as available facilities, comfort, cleanliness, waiting times and more. In other words, you need to concentrate not only on the reputations of your employees but also on the reputation of your practice overall.
Earn Great Reviews and Ratings
Knowing what people are saying about your practice is one thing, but it’s also just as important to maintain an active presence on the relevant social networks, review websites and directories. Hospitals are now using a variety of online platforms to become actively involved in patient feedback and, ultimately, boost ratings. To build and protect your reputation, you’re going to want to pay close attention to platforms like Health Grades, Zocdoc and Vitals. Claiming your profiles on the mainstream platforms, such as Yelp and Google My Business, is also important.
No matter how hard you strive to build an outstanding reputation, there will always be the occasional dissatisfied customer. Although only a relatively small minority of healthcare practice reviews are negative, it’s important to deal with negative feedback promptly and constructively. How you handle complaints often has a greater influence on your reputation than the complaint itself. At the same time, your practice should work hard to encourage praise by way of online ratings and reviews by maintaining transparent communication with your patients and ensuring that you always respect, above all else, patient privacy.
Here at Reputation Resolutions, we understand that hospitals and healthcare professionals are busy taking care of their patients. However, our team has the expertise necessary to create and maintain a strong brand that will keep attracting new patients. If you’d like to learn more about how we can help your practice build an unshakable reputation, contact us today or call (855)239-5322.