Turbo Medical Marketing would like to introduce a guest blogger, Software advice, to discuss some tips for managing your practice’s online reputation.

The 21st century has brought an additional layer of complexity to being a successful doctor. Thanks to the Internet and physician review websites like Health Grades, RateMDs.com and even Yelp, patients have an easy to to quickly assess how good your services really are. In fact, many patients today base their decision to seek-out your services based not on word of mouth, but of the opinions of other Internet users.

And while your online reputation management has been important for some time, a study from the American Life Project found that the percentage of individuals are turning to the Internet and search engines to evaluate potential doctors is continuing to grow. In their study, ALP found that 44% of Internet users turned to the Internet for information about physicians. Even higher, 51% of Internet users ages 34 to 45 did the same.

Negative reviews can be detrimental to your practice. But it’s hard to hunt down every negative online review and then request for a website to take it down. Instead, it takes a combination of knowing what you should and shouldn’t do when it comes to managing your practice’s online reputation.

STOP: 4 Things Not to Do

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When first looking at your profile, there are a four things to should remember never to do:

1      Don’t discuss specifics. HIPAA law states that you cannot discuss patient specifics online, so be sure to never indicate if a person is a patient or has received any form of treatment from you when responding to online reviews.

2      Don’t e-mail patients. Many states require doctors to have written consent before electronically communicating with patients, so avoid emailing before you have received this.

3      Don’t get heated and respond. While you may take your business very personally, it is unprofessional to respond emotionally. Try waiting for about 24 hours, and then decide the appropriate way to respond to a negative review.

4      Don’t point fingers. It’s hard to win a back-and-forth battle on the Internet. In addition, visitors will view your response as validation that the reviewer had a legitimate complaint. Rather than respond directly to negative reviews, have your advocates–your best patients–come to your defense on their own.

GO: 5 Tips to Employ

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While you should never do what’s listed above, there are some best practices and things to keep in mind when managing your online reputation:

1      Pick and choose your battles. You can respond to each and every negative review, but that won’t be worth your time and effort. Instead, focus on the individuals that have genuine complaints, and take action if necessary.

2      Improve your practice with online feedback. While some negative feedback may be in regards to your technical competence, it’s more likely that complaints are about patients’ interactions with staff or experiencing events within your practice. Work with your staff to improve on the important, actionable complaints to improve your services.

3      Reach out to negative reviewers indirectly. If you are confident and you can identify a patient as an unhappy reviewer, attempt to reach out to them directly. Pick-up the phone, or try to connect with them on one-on-one the next time they are in the office.

4      Ask for libel to be removed. Libel, defined as defamation through words and/or pictures that has no basis in fact, can truly hurt your practice’s reputation–and it should be removed. Many websites have protocols for how to remove reviews of this type, so look into the specific company’s policies if you feel this must be done.

5      Encourage happy patients to review your practice. Finally, don’t make online review sites the destination for your unhappy patients. Instead, encourage all of your patients to post reviews online–especially the happy ones. Contact patients a few days after their visit and ask them to review your services on your various online profiles. This way, the good reviews will balance out any bad ones down the road.

In the end, it’s your responsibility to keep your patients happy. By monitoring your reputation online, you will receive feedback that can help you improve your relationships with patients, and offer better clinical services now and in the future.

This article was provided by Software Advice, an online consulting firm that provides reviews and comparisons of medical software solutions. For more on this subject, check out their article: Ionizing Your Online Reputation: Shifting Negative Reviews to Positive.