Everything is up for judgment in the age of the internet. Sites encourage feedback from customers, some dedicated to customer reviews to be viewed by peers interested in the product or service. Many bad reviews on the popular website Yelp have had a very damaging impact on businesses, and now the same can be said about sites dedicated to physician reviews.

A recent survey found that online reviews were the initial source of information for people looking for new physicians, with almost half of the respondents willing to travel out-of-network for a physician that had the most positive reviews. The Journal of General Internal Medicine recently conducted a study analyzing the reviews on Yelp and RateMDs. They tracked the reviews for family and internal medicine practices in four cities and found 37% of the reviews were negative.

These are shocking numbers, and bring online viewership and marketing medical practices in to sharp focus. But what can a physician do to enhance, and maintain a good reputation online without shelling out big bucks to a marketing agency?

  1. Up-to-Date Information

Conduct a Google search of your practice, and read the information posted on review sites. Make sure that the information is factual, up-to-date, and contains your website information, contact information and credentials. It would also make sense to collaborate with the site and give them images to post on the profile. Images make profiles and personable, and elicit a positive reaction from customers.

  1. Strengthen Your Website and Online Presence

Make sure your own website is up-to-date with the latest developments in your practice, any community outreach programs you participate in, as well as positive patient reviews. Build an aura of community around your website, and strengthen your online presence by regularly posting on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Dr. Sandra Lee became a household name by posting videos of her procedures on YouTube and Instagram.

  1. Get Customer Feedback

Instead of waiting for patients to review your practice on their own, encourage patient feedback by posting signs in your waiting room, placing feedback forms at the front desk, and feedback landing pages on your website, or patient portal. You can then post positive feedback on your website, or social media profiles, after getting the patient’s permission, and use the negative feedback to improve your practice.

  1. Monitor Comments

It is understandable to have a kneejerk reaction to a negative comment but don’t give in to that feeling.  Take a minute to calm down and invite the reviewer to discuss their negative experience. This demonstrates an extra level of concern and care on your part, and that you value their feedback.

Try not to engage in long drawn out discussions, but try to take the conversation offline. Most of the time the reviewer would like to discuss specifics about their case, and though they can do so, you may not divulge any information as it is against HIPAA guidelines.  Furthermore, ongoing responses to an old negative review would bring it to the top of the review section for everyone to see.

In case of deliberately malicious reviews that aren’t factual, or are using false images to defame your business, do not respond. Contact the site and enquire about their procedure to have the review removed.

  1. Say No to “Not Review”

Most practices now make patient sign ‘will not review’ agreements. Not only do these not work, but they don’t hold up in court. It only results in alienating patients, giving them the impression that you are guilty of some malpractice, or have a shoddy practice, which is why you’re not open to feedback and reviews. Why close a door to free online marketing? Encourage reviews, don’t discourage them.

  1. Provide Value-Based Care

A man’s actions speak to his character. The simplest way of garnering positive reviews is to make sure your interaction with patients is memorable. Be honest, polite, and keep your practices actions transparent. The good reviews will flow in themselves.