To succeed in the healthcare industry in 2019 requires the ability to build trust with consumers, who are increasingly discerning about where they choose to go for care. Thanks to online reviews and social media, consumers now hold the power, and healthcare brands are shaped by their opinions. Consumers can share those opinions with a vast audience in minutes, and their words have a lasting impact on other consumers’ perceptions and sentiment.
Effective online reputation management (ORM) helps health systems and providers generate more business by building trust and improving consumer sentiment about their brand. In fact, recent research found that hospitals with strong reputations as measured by their overall Reputation Score earn an incremental $1.2 million per bed, per year.
Here are five actionable strategies health systems can take to improve their online reputation and start building trust and advocacy with new and existing patients.
1. Create transparency by requesting and showcasing patient reviews.
A surplus of patient reviews demonstrates a high level of commitment to patient care and supports transparency initiatives that build trust and credibility with consumers. That’s why it’s critical to request feedback from all patients. Even if the review is negative, it’s an opportunity to show others that you take patients’ feedback seriously and are working diligently to address patient complaints.
Social media listening and engagement are also important. Monitoring social channels and actively engaging with the community and influencers creates advocates, drives site traffic, and gets the word out about your doctors and locations and the positive reviews and feedback they’ve received.
Finally, look for ways to integrate reviews with your entire online presence. Find tools that enable you to stream reviews to your website, whether they are reviews left on a site like Google or Bing or reviews from patient experience surveys. This ensures healthcare consumers have easy access to all the information they need to choose your hospital or physicians over your competitors.
2. Don’t Let HIPAA stand in the way of requesting reviews.
Nearly 80% of consumers report using online reviews as a first step to seeking a healthcare provider, while 16% use them to validate the doctor they’ve chosen. But despite these compelling statistics, doctors are wary of requesting reviews. According to a survey of 200 healthcare professionals, 90% of doctors are concerned about the consequences of negative feedback. To make matters worse, many are worried about violating HIPAA policies in their responses.
But HIPAA doesn’t have to deter physicians from responding to feedback. Doctors can avoid risk by first understanding the laws regarding patient content and then consulting with their health system’s legal department to develop approved, HIPAA-compliant responses to common situations they may encounter. Another best practice is to simply thank the reviewer for input without disclosing that they are a patient and request to take the conversation offline.
A robust ORM platform can automate much of the review requesting process, help you monitor and respond to reviews in real time, and ensure responses are HIPAA-compliant. And, by actively managing online reviews, providers are likely to generate more positive reviews, increase search visibility in local markets, and improve patient loyalty. One national network of providers, for example, grew its average number of monthly positive reviews more than four-fold after implementing HIPAA-compliant strategies to request and respond to online reviews at its 400-plus locations
3. Update and maintain your business listings and physician directories.
Recent data shows that more than half of provider directories and two-thirds of business listings have inaccuracies. This is a problem because 67% of consumers lose trust in a business when there’s inaccurate information on a location or physician listing. On the flip side, accurate listings and directories rank higher in search, making it easier for your locations to attract and acquire new patients.
At a minimum, locations, phone numbers, hospital affiliations, accepted insurances, office hours, and specialties should be accurate and up to date. In large health systems, maintaining directories for hundreds or thousands of locations can be extremely challenging; software that pushes accurate data to third-party listing sites and data aggregators on an ongoing basis will be helpful.
4. Use an ORM platform to respond to reviews in real time.
News spreads fast—especially on social media. One negative comment from a dissatisfied patient can go viral in minutes, damaging a physician’s or hospital’s reputation before they can even attempt to right the wrong. ORM software can help curtail the damage by alerting staff in real time when a review is posted, enabling them to respond immediately.
Here’s an example of how the ability to respond quickly can help retain dissatisfied patients. Recently, a patient visiting one of Ochsner Health’s locations scheduled an appointment online at a location that was about an hour from her home. When she arrived a few minutes late, office staff told her the clinic was closing soon, and they didn’t have time to see her. The patient posted a negative review, which had the potential to damage not only the clinic’s brand but the entire Ochsner Health System brand as well.
Fortunately, as soon as the review was posted, it was escalated immediately and the patient experience team reached out to the patient on the spot. They were able to reschedule the patient, this time to a location closer to her home. The patient received the care she needed, and Ochsner retained her business—and its good reputation.
5. Use analytics tools to uncover problems and improve patient experience.
To really understand and act on patient feedback while ensuring your doctors and locations are excelling in all care categories, analyzing unstructured data is essential. Unstructured data is the free text that exists in online reviews and social media posts, and it offers invaluable insights into patient sentiment beyond what can be discerned from patient satisfaction surveys.
Analyzing patient sentiment across online review platforms and social media can reveal the need for operational, facility, and service improvements. For example, if multiple patients complain about parking issues at a newly opened clinic on Facebook, systematically monitoring reviews and social media comments together can flag the issue, enabling operations to quickly address the problem.
But for health systems with thousands of locations—each with a presence on review sites and social channels—the amount of unstructured data generated requires sophisticated machine learning algorithms to make sense of it and generate actionable insights. As more advanced analytics tools become available, performing such analysis will enable health systems to continually improve on patient experience and optimize the care they deliver.
Learn More! Hear how Ascension is creating value through reputation management at the Healthcare Marketing & Physician Strategies Summit, May 21-23, at the Sheraton Grand Chicago.
Lindsay Neese Burton spent more than a decade as a healthcare marketer at large Academic Medical Centers in the Southeast focused on developing marketing strategies for consumers and referring physicians. Now, as Healthcare Marketing Director for Reputation.com, she helps healthcare organizations create digital marketing strategies and leverage online feedback to meet their goals.