Your current and prospective patients are talking and reading about your practice online, and the information out there about you is critical for the future of your business. Google, in it’s ongoing effort to enhance the user experience, has optimized patient searches by placing online reviews for practices at the top of the search results page. There is no doubt that online reputation matters – even for medical practices that have been providing essential health services for decades.
Why Online Reputation Matters: Prospective Patients
The 2017 Local Consumer Survey published by BrightLocal, a firm specializing in SEO tools and online monitoring for small businesses, found that 97% of consumers read online reviews for businesses everyday. Drilling down further, 12% of those consumers report reading online reviews every day. The same report found that 73% of consumers say they are more likely to trust a business when they’ve read a positive review for it.
Health care is a deeply personal experience for many, so data on patient utilization of online reviews is even more profound. One study, co-researched by Google and Compete Inc., surveyed more than 500 hospital researchers to try and determine what influences people when they select a hospital and to what degree digital plays a role. They found the following:
- Search influences almost 3 times as many visitors to hospital sites when compared with non-search visitors.
- 44% of patients who research health facilities on a mobile device scheduled an appointment
- 84% of patients use both online and offline sources for health facility research – meaning they use word of mouth as well as Internet research.
Patients who have had negative experiences are more likely to take to the internet to air their opinions. To ensure the content online about your practice is comprised of more approvals than grievances, you’ll need to make an effort to promote positive experiences so patients take the time to write positive reviews.
Why Online Reputation Matters: Revenue
All of this considered, it shouldn’t be surprising that recent research suggests positive reviews have an effect on revenue. A study on Yelp reviews managed by Harvard Professor Michael Luca found that, where Yelp reviews penetrated local markets, people opted for local options with better reviews over well-known chain restaurants. This, he says, is a good sign for small medical practices vis a vis large health systems and national chain minute clinics. Increasing the number of positive online reviews can help attract new patients to your medical practice, which translates to an increase in revenue. Even one additional star on a Yelp review can translate to a revenue increase of as much as 9%.
Improving Online Reputation: Social Media
Managing online reviews on Google and Yelp is definitely important, but a strong online marketing strategy is another essential component of promoting a positive online reputation and presence. Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat can be inexpensive marketing platforms with a huge potential reach for medical practices.
Get a handle on your patient demographics to narrow down your efforts for where to build content online. Older patients, for example, tend to use Facebook for online networking while millennial patients may be more inclined to name Instagram as their social media platform of choice. Share any specials you may have going on or post quick health tips that might be timely or relevant, for example cold and flu tips in the winter and sun protection reminders in the summer.
Medical practices can also increase their online presence in a positive way by sharing thought leadership pieces or medical news relevant to their practice. Practices that position themselves as information sources are more likely to get followers and “likes,” which is essentially the online version of word of mouth.
Another powerful social tool for medical practices to boost their online reputation via social media is patient testimonials. If you have patients who have had great experiences, ask them to film a testimonial video detailing what they loved about the practice and why they would recommend it to others. These videos can live on social media as well as your own website.
Finally, ensure your contact information is up to date. Everything from your physical address to phone numbers to physician profiles should be as current as possible for patients are able to access the information they need as soon as they need it.