In the old days, before the internet, word of mouth was everything. If you needed a plumber, a new ladder or a good meal out, you would consult friends and family about their experiences. Recommendations applied to finding a family physician as well. Today, word of mouth has migrated to online directories. Reviews from Google, Facebook, Yelp and more specialized sites like RateMDs.com, the most extensive physician-rating website in Canada, are the go-to places for finding out about medical professionals.
For any form of business, negative online reviews can be devastating to a company’s reputation and bad for business; medical practices are no exception. Bad online ratings can wreak havoc on doctors’ businesses, according to doctors and reputation-management companies. The vast majority of these ratings, anywhere from 75 to 80 percent, have nothing to do with a doctor’s ability or skill. Instead, they are focused on the customer experience. A bad experience with parking, wait times, and administrative staff can sway ratings in the wrong direction. Rather than turn a blind eye to ratings, doctors should consider monitoring what is said about them, and take measured steps to deal with these reviews.
What can you do with reviews?
Though you may be reluctant to look yourself up on a search engine like Bing or Google, it can be a valuable experience. It will allow you to review positive experiences, address negative ones, flag any false information, and, on specific rating sites, update your profile with correct information. It is also important to avoid asking patients to post positive reviews or sign agreements that they won’t write negative ones.
It is easy to think of any review as a negative, but remember, the vast majority of online reviews are typically positive for physicians and medical practices. If your reviews are positive, take note of what is working. Use this positive information to strive for an even better experience. The same can be said when experiencing negative reviews.
When you encounter negative online reviews and comments, it may be appropriate to pause and assess the feedback as objectively as possible. They can be an excellent opportunity for you to improve your practice. As mentioned above, the majority of negative reviews are about something other than medical treatment; they tend to focus more on the customer experience. It can be a simple as a long wait time, a grumpy receptionist, or lack of parking that sparks a negative review. The good news is that you can address these issues by making changes based on any negative review. For example, a California hand surgeon learned from his reviews that patients felt they were waiting a long time to see him. To help reduce wait times his office emailed forms in advance through a patient portal so they could be filled in before arriving at the office. Solving an issue will lessen the likelihood of similar negative experiences in the future.
Some negative reviews move beyond a bad experience to a flat-out falsehood. Rating sites will take down reviews that use profanity or can be proven fake. On RateMDs you can address ratings you find false or unfair. According to the website, you can “click the ‘flag’ next to the rating to have it re-reviewed.” If the review is not false, but something you want to dispute you can respond directly to the commentator. But should you? The Canadian Medical Protective Association (CMPA) recommends not directly responding to online reviews. Instead, they recommend “to pause and assess the feedback as objectively as possible.” They recommend that “physicians should not publicly reply online to specific patients, even if they feel certain about which patient provided the comment or review, nor should they publicly post any specific comments online.” Reputation-management firms agree with this assessment, adding that the worry about breaching confidentiality when directly responding to comments, especially when talking about a diagnosis, is also a significant risk of responding to reviews.
Remember not to take a bad review too personally. Studies show no correlation between online ratings and quality of care. A patient just had a bad customer experience. If you can address the issue, make the changes. You can also be proactive by creating an environment that welcomes open dialogue, where concerns are told to you directly, instead of online. The CMPA says “fostering honest and open communication [with patients] can have a positive effect on the physician-patient relationship, improve patient satisfaction, and reduce the potential for negative Internet comments.” A popular and efficient way to do this is by providing anonymous surveys to your patients so they can give direct feedback about their experiences.
As review sites become more and more relevant for patients, it is essential for doctors to know how to handle these ratings and evaluations. As much as some physicians would wish these sites away, it is a system that is here to stay. By embracing the system, positive and negative reviews can be helpful, acting as a springboard to improving your practice.
2Ascribe Inc. is a medical transcription services agency located in Toronto, Ontario Canada, providing medical transcription services to physicians, clinics and other healthcare providers across Canada and the US. Having recently introduced WEBscribe, a client interface portal for document management, 2Ascribe continues to implement and develop technology to assist and improve the transcription process for physicians and other healthcare providers. As a service to our clients and the healthcare industry, 2Ascribe offers articles of interest to physicians and other healthcare professionals, medical transcriptionists and office staff, as well as of general interest. Additional articles may be found at https://www.2ascribe.com.