What is Reputation Management for Doctors?
Reputation management helps doctors improve their online reputation by increasing positive reviews and press while professionally managing negative attention.
Quality reputation management also requires a strong understanding of the nuances of healthcare reputation regulations and HIPAA compliance.
Typically, reputation management comes into play when a doctor or practice:
- Is struggling to generate any reviews
- Has many negative reviews (on Google, Facebook, Healthgrades, Yelp, Vitals, and more)
- Received negative press
- Was involved in a malpractice lawsuit
- Is attacked by a competitor (typically with fake reviews)
This guide will show you not only how to do reputation management yourself, but also explain what to look for in a quality reputation management specialist for doctors.
Reputation Management Techniques
While it’s illegal for a doctors office to bribe people for reviews, there are plenty of legitimate ways you can improve your online reputation through these different management techniques. Therefore, here are just a few techniques we recommend you take advantage of today (and some techniques that could land you in serious trouble).
Survey Patients to Improve Your Service
If you repeatedly receive poor reviews from real patients, the best place to start is searching for common themes. While many negative reviews have nothing constructive, others will reveal ways to improve your business.
For example, if most people say that they experienced long wait times without an apology, consider how you can revisit your scheduling strategy and make patients feel comfortable. This may also involve adjusting how your front desk representatives respond to certain situations.
Once you’ve exhausted all of the common themes in your reviews, survey your current patients to ask them how they feel about your service.
You can use an online form like SurveyMonkey and send a link after their appointment, or you can have the doctor ask them a few questions after the appointment itself.
The only issue with live feedback is that it can be difficult to collect. For example, after the appointment, the doctor will have to write down everything the patient said and then send it to the marketing team.
The types of questions you ask are also essential to the success of your surveys. Here are a few common complaints people have with doctors and should therefore be included in your surveys:
- How easy was it to schedule the appointment?
- How easy is it to access your patient portal?
- Is the patient portal convenient?
- Was the doctor and staff attentive?
- Did your appointment run on schedule, or did you have to wait?
- Was the staff was friendly, welcoming, and sensitive to your needs?
- Did you feel that your wellbeing was the doctor’s top priority?
- Were any treatments unnecessary?
- What was your overall sentiment from the appointment?
Once you have some constructive feedback, take action on it and make changes to your practice. As you make changes, continue to survey patients and repeat the process.
If you don’t have an excellent service, none of these tips will help you, as you will continue to generate negative reviews.
Ask Happy Patients For Reviews
About 91% of 18-34 year olds trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, and statistics reflect similar results for older generations. Therefore, generating many positive reviews for your doctors office should be a top priority to improve your reputation management.
So how can you generate more positive reviews?
While bribing patients with money for reviews (positive or negative) is illegal, you are allowed to ask them for reviews. In addition, there are other legitimate ways to encourage patients to write a review.
First, make the process easy. Create a page on your website (complete with screenshots) that details exactly how a patient can write a review on various platforms.
Here’s a great example of a review instruction page:
In addition, be sure to have the doctor personally ask them to leave a review at the end of each appointment.
Another creative way to encourage reviews is to have a tablet or computer designated for reviews set up next to or on the front desk. Therefore, as the patient is finishing their appointment, you can ask them to leave a review and point to the screen. Be sure to also print out instructions on leaving a review and leave it next to the screen.
Manage Negative Reviews
While you can’t delete reviews, there are some other ways you can manage them. First, be sure to respond to all of your reviews (both positive and negative) with HIPAA compliant responses.
To make them HIPAA compliant, don’t confirm that a patient is your patient even if they have openly said it in the review. For example, a patient might leave a review like this:
Review: I had a wonderful experience with Dr. Green! Great service, caring, and on-time!
Non HIPPA Compliant Response: I’m thrilled that we got the opportunity to work with you!
HIPPA Compliant Response: We love hearing about positive patient experiences!
Notice that the first response admits you worked with the patient, while the second one does not.
Here is an excellent example of a negative review response that is HIPAA compliant:
While the reviewer is the only one that can change legitimate negative reviews, fake reviews can be managed by your practice. Here are some telltale signs of a fake reviewer:
- He/she uses a fake-sounding name/avatar
- Comments don’t align with what your business offers
- The reviewer has many negative reviews, and they were all created over a short period of time (within several weeks or months)
To have the fake reviews removed, you can submit a request to Google following these guidelines.
In rare cases, people will write a negative review and demand the business pays them money to take it down. If this happens to you, be sure to record all emails, text messages, or other communications and send them to Google using the process above to have the reviews removed. Google will take them down, similar to how fake reviews are handled.
One final scenario that may occur is if an angry ex-employee writes a negative review. In this case, you can submit a removal request to Google either with a screenshot of the review (if the employee admits they were an ex-employee in the review) or public proof that this person worked for your company.
Create Positive Press
If you see a doctor with just one negative article, you probably won’t become a patient. However, if that doctor has one negative article and ten positive articles, you’ll likely brush off the one negative article.
Therefore, think about how you can create more positive press.
One way to do that is by participating in industry events. For example, if you are a speaker at a conference, you can create press releases announcing it. Here’s a great example:
This shows potential patients that you are well respected within your industry, and the other negative press will fade away.
Another option is to write guest posts or press releases on authoritative industry websites that provide value to the public. Here’s an excellent example:
You may also book podcasts for your doctor to speak on, which will be promoted to the public and help increase credibility.
Essentially, the more press you can create that presents your doctor in a positive light, the less impact the negative press will have on the clinic. If you research any well-respected person, almost all of them have some negative press. Therefore, your patients will view your practice the same way.
Give Back to The Local Community
Another great way to combat negative press is by engaging with the community. For example, if you recently spoke at a local high school or offered to treat certain patients/symptoms for free, people probably won’t be willing to talk poorly about your practice.
One tip is to try to involve yourself in the community in ways that aren’t conventional. For example, being one of many sponsors at a large event probably won’t get you noticed.
However, if you are a pediatrician and offer to donate snacks to your local school for kids in need, that will likely have a much more lasting impression on the community. It will also probably generate more press, and create a stronger sentiment than a simple monetary donation.
Here’s a great example of this in action.
Here are a few excellent ideas to give back:
- Treat certain rare conditions/in-need patients for free (volunteer your time)
- Provide necessities (snacks, masks, etc.) to in-need communities (schools, nursing homes, etc.)
- Spearheading community efforts
Here’s a great example of how BBC picked up a story about a doctor that treated albino kids for free. This is an excellent example of something you could do for your doctors office on a smaller scale for your reputation management.
Notice that a story like this would easily make a poor review about long wait times fade into the background? Therefore, focus more of your energy on creating an amazing service and adding value rather than how you can beat negative reviews and press.
If people Google your name and the first page result has negative press, the best way to tackle this situation is to improve your website’s ranking and visibility and other posts that portray your brand in a positive light.
For example, if the search results look like this when someone Googles your name, think about how you can push some of these negative results further down:
There are a few things you can do to make your content rank higher.
First, look at the highest-ranking content you currently have for your own branded terms. This might be a blog post or your homepage. From there, update the user experience. For example,
- Does your page load quickly? (you can use PageSpeed Insights to test it and hire a developer on Upwork to speed it up)
- Can the user easily read everything? (Is the text legible? Are there massive blocks of text? Is the font user-friendly?)
- Does the page answer the search intent? (If the meta description/title is “best tinnitus treatment,” make sure the post includes tinnitus treatment suggestions)
- Can the user easily find what they are looking for?
To monitor your user experience, check your bounce rate and time on page. If you have a high bounce rate and low time on page, you may need to reevaluate your strategy.
Once you know your pages have a great user experience, the next step is to build quality links to those pages.
Links from quality websites in the medical field will show Google that your content is authoritative and respected by other industry professionals. Once Google sees that, it will be more willing to rank you higher.
Note however, that your links need to be high-quality and relevant. Otherwise, they won’t help you. Here are some examples:
- Poor link (irrelevant): www.apple.com
- Poor link (low quality website): www.sallyshealthblog.com
- Great link (relevant and high-quality website: www.webmd.com
Over time, Google will gradually begin to rank pages that show off your brand in a positive light over pages with negative press. You can also use guest posts on third-party websites to push the negative press down.
When Can You Take Legal Action?
In general, fighting fire with fire is not the best course of action. Reviewers are also entitled to state how they feel about a particular business’s service, so you would likely lose most cases (even if the negative comments are exaggerated).
In fact, many healthcare practices that try to fight these comments end up with more negative press. For example, this doctor sued a patient for a million dollars after a negative review, and the practice has now received negative press from publications as large as BBC.
However, there are some cases where it may make sense to take legal action quietly. For example, if someone makes defamatory or slanderous statements with the intention of ruining your company’s reputation, legal action may be the best solution.
Note that these are typically extreme cases that often involve a competitor or other organization with underlying motivations to ruin your business. This is not a typical course of action that should be taken against an individual reviewer.
Another scenario where you may consider taking legal action is if the press or reviews are sexually demeaning or otherwise considered harassment. In one study of physicians, one in six women admitted they had been sexually harassed online, and several women in the study received threats of assault or even death.
In these cases, legal action would be acceptable.
Tools to Track Your Online Reputation
As you begin improving the management of your online reputation for your doctors office, it’s essential to continue tracking your progress and any new press (positive or negative).
The faster you can act on negative press, the easier it will be to control the damage. You’ll also want to share the good press on your social channels and always respond to customer complaints and compliments.
Therefore, here are a few tools that make reputation management easy.
Google Alerts (Free)
The first and easiest way to track your reputation is by using Google Alerts. This tool will send you a notification any time someone mentions a keyword that you choose to track. For example, you can track your brand name or your doctor’s name, and every time someone mentions it online, you’ll receive a notification.
SocialMention (by BrandMentions) allows you to track social media for any brand mentions (or any keyword). This also sends email alerts and notifications and has a free and paid version.
If you’re looking for a tool with a complete dashboard and analytics, Reputology is an excellent choice. It’s well-rated on G2 (4.7) and Capterra (4.8) and offers email notifications, a tool for review follow-ups, and plenty of metrics.
What to Look For in a Reputation Management Professional
With the tools and tactics above, you should be able to carry out your own reputation management strategy for your doctors office. Though if you want a done-for-you solution, you can also hire a reputation management professional.
However, hiring the wrong professional can result in further damage. Therefore, here are some key considerations when hiring a reputation management firm.
Experience in Healthcare
Hiring a reputation management firm with experience in healthcare is essential. For example, if you hire a professional that doesn’t understand HIPAA compliance and regulations, you could end up dealing with fines, compromised patient information, or other issues.
In fact, 56% of HIPAA violations (which can cost up to $25,000 per violation category) were due to social media, which also happens to be a prime place for reviews.
Experience With Similar Situations
The reputation management company you use should also be skilled in similar situations. For example, if you hire a company that specializes in removing negative press, they may not be the best solution if your main goal is to increase positive Google reviews.
They Don’t Fight Fire With Fire
When you first get on a call with a reputation management company, they should ask about your current situation, your issues, and how you’ve worked to improve your current service. (If they don’t do that, there is your first red flag).
Once they have this information, they should create a customized strategy that details how they will tackle the situation.
In this strategy, they should mention some of the tactics above and avoid claims like “We’ll delete all your negative reviews.” They also shouldn’t threaten anyone that has written negative reviews or press about your practice.
They Have KPIs and Thorough Tracking
If you’re going to pay someone to fix your reputation, you should be able to see if their strategy works. Therefore, ask to see some common KPIs, including:
- How many positive brand mentions you’ve earned
- What amount of negative brand mentions appeared
- How many negative mentions were removed/pushed down (and by how much)
- How user sentiment has changed/improved
Most of them will give you reports through tools, but be sure to see steady improvement month over month.
They Are Transparent
Quality reputation management isn’t a secret. You could probably hire someone in-house to do it for you, but they might make a few more mistakes and cost more than simply hiring an agency.
Nevertheless, it’s slow, consistent work that makes the difference, so your agency should always be communicative and transparent. If they say things like “We don’t reveal our strategies” or “Don’t worry about the process, we’ll get it done,” you should probably be worried.
Finally, the company you hire is an extension of your team. You should be able to get in touch with them easily, and they should respond promptly to requests. If they take several days to respond to a strategy call request, they probably won’t be a responsive partner.
Hire a Reputation Management Firm
If you’re looking to improve your practice’s image and reputation, Stodzy can help you out. The steps above reflect our approach to reputation management, and we’ve used it to help many healthcare doctors improve their image.
We also realize that each situation is different, and we work with you to set target goals and a matching strategy.
If you want to speak with a professional about your situation, give us a call or send us a message, and we will be happy to help.