With the Internet giving patients so many avenues to form an opinion about medical practices, every startup medical practice needs to be proactive about its online reputation. The competition of online reviews and social networks can be cutthroat – particularly for startup medical practices.
Sites such as Yelp and Amazon have an immense impact on a brand’s online reputation. While bigger and established medical practices have pockets deep enough to ride out the claims from a disgruntled patient, it can take just 140 words to affect a new practice’s growth.
Prospective patients compare the search profiles between competitors. New medical practices usually don’t have the level of search profile that mature ones do. That puts new practices at a disadvantage.
Reputation and reviews drive the success of medical practices worldwide. Every month, thousands of new medical practices open. The majority of them survive just a few years. Only a quarter of all new medical practices survive for 15 years or more.
If you are a new medical practice and you want to grow, you still need to take things step by step. Prioritizing your efforts as a new medical practice owner is a conscious effort. Every dime you spend should be tracked. But it’s far cheaper and more effective to do healthcare online reputation management before a problem occurs.
During the crucial stages when your medical practice is just getting off the ground, where you choose to spend your effort, time and money can make a world of difference between being one of the 25 percent that are open after 15 years – or one of the 30 percent that close within two years. Healthcare online reputation management is one of the areas often ignored until it’s too late.
What Is Healthcare Online Reputation Management?
When you are just getting started, your medical practice’s online reputation is a blank slate. You have no history of scathing patient reviews or social media blunders or stagnant healthcare website traffic, just a brand-new website and a whole world of possibilities. However, as any seasoned medical practice owner can attest, it doesn’t stay this way for long.
Healthcare brands need to participate in the online marketplace. Even those whose focus is local have patients who expect detailed healthcare websites, updated patient reviews and the ability to effectively communicate with the provider, often through social media channels. The moment you are online is the moment your healthcare brand’s reputation management strategy needs to be put into action.
Patients decide how to perceive your medical practice based on factors both emotional and logical, and it’s the former that you can use to effect through an active and ongoing healthcare reputation management campaign.
Start Patient Review Management Early
The sooner you receive positive patient reviews at the beginning of your practice, the harder it will be for negative reviews to drive down your star-rating.
Online reviews management can be done quickly. A simple review request email to every patient you have served will give recent patients a chance to rant or praise your medical practice. If it is a rant, you can catch it before the patient has an opportunity to write damaging Yelp reviews. If it is praise, you can direct the patient to the review site that is in most need of improvement. This should be done with your very first patient and every one after that.
Why Start an Online Reputation Management Campaign Before Problems Start?
Your online perception dictates how likable you are, how trustworthy patients perceive your brand to be and if a patient should bother with you at all. New medical practices do not have the benefit of generalized brand awareness. There is no inherent authority coming from your brand name. And when you have got a lot to prove, there isn’t a lot of room for mistakes.
If you started your medical practice on day one with a five-star rating across all relevant third-party review sites and search results that only reinforced your awesomeness, you would be almost bulletproof. But new medical practices must contend with established players that have hundreds of great patient reviews. It is an uphill battle and one that must be engaged early.
A Negative Online Reputation Can Break Your Medical Practice
There are a lot of lessons to be learned around us, but what most of those examples highlight is that a negative online reputation can break any medical practice. It can be said that most new medical practices don’t close because of inferior service or staff –they close because of their poor attitude. Instead of spending effort putting out their PR fire, they ignite it further, increasing the backlash and destroying patients’ trust and brand credibility. It is a devastating publicity disaster that most new medical practices are unable to survive.
Healthcare Brands Should Build Their Online Reputation
Effective online reputation management is not just about avoiding public meltdowns. Most medical practices are unlikely to face large-scale public disasters, especially early on. Instead, the primary focus of brand building for new medical practices should be building brand recognition and positive associations.
Start With Your Healthcare Website
To begin, you are going to need your website to rank high in search engine results if you want potential patients to find it. Ranking poorly for your specialty or brand name or products can be a death knell online. Start with a competent healthcare website and then add fresh content regularly. This simple content marketing plan can help. Collaborate with other relevant websites to share links to and from your pages. Properly utilize SEO key terms and phrases so that you are showing up for the appropriate search terms.
Set Up a Few Social Media Profiles
Next comes your presence on social networks. Create pages and keep them updated and fresh. Use relevant content and social media posts not just to build awareness but to interact with patients and peers in your industry. Build positive associations – encourage satisfied patients to “like” your pages or share good reviews about your services.
Tempted to Buy Patient Reviews?
Most healthcare marketers or owners who end up buying patient reviews do so because they didn’t start with their online reputation management program early enough and got caught out in the cold. While buying patient reviews is frowned upon, people do it all the time. If you start early enough, your online presence should be strong enough to withstand some scathing reviews now and then, and you won’t need to buy fake positive reviews. It’s the unprepared healthcare brands that get hurt.
Control Your Online Reputation Early
It is advised to take the reins early on if you are going to cultivate a positive online presence. Take advantage of the blank slate offered to you and take the time to develop a stellar online reputation management strategy that sets you up for success.