Practice Marketing: Beyond Five Stars

Follow the six R’s to boost your online presence and counteract negative online reviews.
Beyond Five Stars

Reading a negative online review of your practice can feel like a personal attack on you and your staff members. Not only is it hurtful, it is also scary. Practitioners often vacillate between anger and concern about what impact this very public rebuke will have on prospective patients. Their fears are supported by a recent study from Digital Assent showing that, for 72% of patients, negative reviews can be a deal breaker.

But these numbers are not the whole story. Online reputation involves much more than star ratings, and—when managed consistently—one negative review will not derail a practice. In fact, physicians who are rated heavily—with a mix of both glowing and mediocre reviews—may be at an advantage.

The information provided on the following pages will help you expand your understanding of online reputation beyond star ratings, and show you how to reduce your vulnerability and leverage online review sites that attract prospective patients.

Odds Are, Your Online Reputation Is Not Representative

In two separate studies conducted in 2014 by Etna Interactive and RealSelf, data showed that more than 90% of practices have fewer than five reviews on each of the industry’s most visible online medical rating websites. Given this information, the odds are that your online reputation is an incomplete and unbalanced representation of your practice.

While your portrayal online may be incomplete, the exposure of both ratings and reviews is widespread. Pew Research, a nonpartisan fact tank, revealed in their 2013 report on peer-to-peer healthcare that more than one in five Americans actively seeks physician reviews to inform their healthcare choices. That number is significantly higher among more affluent and more educated patients.

Consider also that Google currently features star ratings alongside nearly all local search results on its first page. This means that even patients not actively seeking data about your reputation online will likely encounter it.

What is a practice to do? Start by acknowledging two points: The perception of your reputation is influenced by more than the five-star rating system; and you can take action to ensure a representative portrayal of your services and patient satisfaction online.

You Are More Than the Sum of Your Stars

Star ratings are certainly influential, but they are not the only factor that influences patients. Consider this restaurant analogy: You overhear someone say, “I had dinner last night at that new Café Asclepius, and it was just horrible.” There’s a good chance that you will avoid dining there.

Then further suppose that in the days that follow, you are repeatedly exposed to the restaurant’s name and brand. You see beautiful and compelling photos of their delicious-looking food and you encounter several positive reviews online that challenge what you first heard. How do your opinions change when you see the chef featured on the local news and learn not only of her impeccable training but begin to identify with her personal approach to cuisine? Suddenly, that negative review you heard in passing carries much less weight.

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