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April 2012

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April 2012

Strategies for Dealing With Negative Online Practice Reviews

How are you responding to upset patients? No matter what healthcare specialty you’re in, you’re going to experience negative reviews. Today’s patients are routinely expressing their feelings and complaints using social media. It happens. How you handle it is what separates you from other practitioners…

There are two ways you can look at negative word-of-mouth online. You can see it as a problem. Or you can see it as an opportunity. The fact is, it can be a great opportunity if you have a strategy in place for turning angry or upset patients into raving fans.

Keep in mind that, typically, unhappy patients will talk to five people, but formerly unhappy patients that you’ve won back will likely talk to 10 people. Here are some steps you can take to stop negative reviews, earn new fans and gain the respect you deserve.

1. Listen!
Conversations are happening all over the Internet all the time. To learn what patients are saying about you, pay attention to Twitter and your Facebook page. Set up Google Alerts for your name and your practice name. Read review sites such as Yelp, Citysearch, HealthGrades and Google RateMD. Identify online forums or communities where your patients gather and check in on them. Listening carefully makes it easier for you to catch negative buzz and identify issues while they are easy to correct.

2. Move fast!
When you get a negative review, time is not on your side. The longer you wait to respond, the angrier the patient may get and the more likely others will spread the negative buzz. You can help defuse this potentially damaging situation by posting something like, “Hi, my name is Dr. Smith and I hear you. I’m looking into this right now and I will get back to you as soon as possible. If you have any questions, contact me directly at (your phone number or email address).” This does two things. First, it lets the complainer know that he or she has your attention, which reduces the likelihood that they will keep spreading negative comments. Second, it gives the complainer a place to vent other than online.

3. Is it really worth your response?
Not all negative comments or reviews deserve a response. Not every unhappy patient is worth winning over. Sometimes it’s better for you to simply ignore the complaint and move on. The criticism may appear on a really small blog or forum. Your response could draw attention to an issue nobody really cares about. Sometimes the review is a blatant attack that’s clearly outrageous, and that would lead most readers to the conclusion that the complainer is the problem. These are no-win scenarios. Better to move on and focus on making positive changes in your practice that will positively influence future reviews.

4. Avoid “doctor-speak”
The only thing worse than ignoring an upset patient is responding with medical jargon or cold clinical language. Instead, show simple human empathy, communicate in a friendly tone and use your real name. If the forum supports it, include your photo (or the photo of the person on your staff being complained about),along with the response. It’s easy for a patient to yell and scream at a faceless medical practice. But when you respond and say, “Hi, this is Dr. Smith and I’m so sorry for your trouble…,” it changes everything. The critic now realizes she wasn’t complaining about a faceless practice. She was complaining about Dr. Smith. The complainant’s anger will likely fade — and you might even get an apology.

5: Offer a real apology
A strong, direct, heartfelt apology always earns more respect than a weak, flimsy apology. Consider the difference between “I’m sorry you feel that way” and “What happened to you is absolutely unacceptable…”

6. Make it right
Yes, you can turn around negative reviews with a simple heartfelt apology. But the way to really win over a disgruntled patient is to fix the problem that led to the complaint. We all make mistakes. It’s how we fix them that people will remember favorably.

To learn more about online reputation management and social media, call Practice Builders at 800.679.1200 and speak to a consultant.

Surefire Ways to Attract More Patients

Whether you are a doctor, a dentist or a physical therapist, developing a healthcare marketing plan that will help you attract more patients and improve your bottom line is essential. To help you start on the right foot, we have put together a list of ways you can stop wasting marketing dollars and ensure that your practice is attracting the new patients it needs to sustain itself.

1. Set goals
Do you currently have a marketing budget or do you simply keep trying different marketing approaches? Most practices do not have the tools or the time necessary to develop a strategic marketing plan. Yet, this initial step is critical. If you don’t know where you are going, how will you get there? Take some time to develop goals for your practice. This simple first step will give you and your staff direction and focus as you map out your strategy for the year.

2. Examine your marketing activities
Once you have established a vision and goals, examine your current program to see what’s working and what’s not. Do you ask each patient how they heard about you? Failing to track and monitor your marketing channels is the easiest way to waste marketing dollars.

3. Embrace the Internet
Many practices that have relied on patient referrals and yellow page ads for decades need to understand that patients are now taking to the web to do their own research online. Make sure that you have more than a presence. Do you have an SEO company? Is someone managing your pay-per-click ads? Who is handling your social media channels? These are all essential questions that you must ask. Statistics show that 8 in 10 Internet users look online for health information. These numbers cannot be ignored.

4. Manage your reputation
There are over 15 websites including, HealthGrades, Google RateMD, Citysearch, Yelp and others, that you should consistently monitor. Your patients are web-savvy medical consumers. One bad online review can negatively impact their decision-making process when they are looking for healthcare services. Be proactive by using organic SEO and social media to your advantage.

5. Train your staff
It’s largely up to your office staff to get as many new patients as possible scheduled into your practice. It’s usually up to you to “close the sale.”  Getting patients into the office is the hardest part. That’s why it’s essential that you spend time training your staff on phone inquiry handling and conversion. If your office personnel do not have the right phone skills or they’re not asking the right questions, you may be missing out on new patients and new revenue every day.

6. Turn “patient inquiries” into patients
When an inquiry comes to your website via a phone call or form submission, it is important that you capture an email address. Email is an inexpensive but effective way to stay relevant with your prospects until they are ready to become patients. We find that most practices send an auto-responder message saying “Thank you for your request and someone will call you soon.” That is an annoying, ineffective email that offers no relevant information to the patient prospect’s needs. Instead, you should implement an email program. Your email-marketing program should have 4 to 5 emails for each procedure or service that you offer. Each email should be time-released to provide procedure-specific information over time to segmented groups of potential patients. The goal is to engage prospects with useful content and establish trust, so that when they are ready to appoint, your practice is fresh in their minds.

7. Get everyone involved
Meet with your staff to help everyone understand your goals and what your patient inquiry management program will include. Your marketing effectiveness is only as strong as your weakest link, so you must ensure that your front desk, your email campaigns and your social media messaging are all aligned.

MyPracticeBuilder is a system we developed to help you track 100% of your marketing and improve your staff’s patient inquiry handling and management. MyPracticeBuilder also completely automates your email healthcare marketing program.

To receive a complimentary myPracticeBuilder consultation, email info@practicebuilders.com or call us at 800.679.1200.