In 2012, researchers from the University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor, commenced a multiyear survey of US patients about their process of choosing a physician for themselves. The study, published in 2014 in the Journal of the American Medical Association,1 sought to elucidate which factors were most important to patients when searching for and selecting a new doctor. Among the obvious answers were factors such as whether the doctor would accept the patient’s health care coverage and the convenience of the practice location.
However, there was a new trend observed in this study: The way doctors are perceived online has an impact. Nearly 60% of individuals surveyed reported that a physician’s ratings online were either somewhat important (40%) or very important (19%). In other words, to almost 20% of the population, online reviews are critical in deciding whether or not you should be someone’s physician. Of the patients who sought out a doctor based on online reviews, 35% picked their doctor based on positive reviews, whereas 37% stated that they avoided doctors with bad reviews. Thus, when doctors take no action to protect and strengthen their names online, they are neglecting a crucial and growing avenue to attract new patients.
I conducted some research on this topic by purchasing Google AdWords for doctors’ names (first name and last name). The results showed that doctors’ names are searched 30 to more than 100 times daily within a 20-mile radius of their practice zip codes! This illustrates that patients are searching for and researching doctors online. After making an appointment or scheduling surgery, patients may turn to the Internet to learn more about their doctors by putting their names into Google; what they find influences their decision, trust, and perception of their doctors as well as who they will pay for refractive surgery or premium IOL surgery.
STRENGTHENING YOUR ONLINE REPUTATION
There are several simple steps you can take to strengthen your online reputation.
1. Create a Google Alert for your name so that you know what others post about you on the web.
3. Online review sites generally have low yield of patient responses because patients are busy; consider collecting reviews directly from patients during their postoperative visits and using Verified Reviews
4. Create business cards, flyers, and marketing materials featuring your patient reviews and ratings, eg “4.7 out of 5.0 star rating based on 297 online reviews.”
5. Provide patients access to your marketing materials in the waiting room because highly rated doctors are worth waiting for!
6. Do not be afraid of a few negative reviews. Learn from the feedback and improve your patient care. A couple of negative reviews will make you look transparent and real. The key to combating a few negative reviews is diluting the pollution with numerous positive reviews.
7. Place links on your website to your online reviews.
8. Create a public Facebook Page for your practice, as this will also increase patient engagement. You can post your reviews and thank your patients on your social media channels.
Patient reviews are a type of social media engagement where patients are able to provide opinions about their doctors. Asking patients to review you empowers them, and patients are thankful that you care to ask about their experience.
Achieving an outstanding online reputation does not occur overnight. Online reputation management requires gradual, constant investment in time and resources. Similar to going to the gym, your online reputation requires continual attention. It’s worth it: I have had several patients switch to me or travel more than 90 miles to see me because of what they read online after searching my name.
Opinions and points of view expressed are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the US NAVY or the Department of Defense.
1. Hanauer DA, Zheng K, Singer DC, et al. Public awareness, perception, and use of online physician rating sites. JAMA. 2014;311(7):734-735.>