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Healthcare Practice Strategies – Winter 2012 - Know Who’s Talking About You

A physician’s reputation and practice have always been built by word of mouth. But with the proliferation of on-line rating and review sites, the opinions of today’s increasingly vocal healthcare consumers are spreading farther and faster than ever before. And it’s not just patients and potential patients visiting these sites. Insurance companies are also beginning to use them as another tool for reviewing physician performance.

Diagnosing a Reputation
As with restaurant and travel review sites, provider review sites run the gamut. Some simply provide an open forum to share thoughts and experiences, while others dig much deeper. HealthGrades.com, for example, blends patient survey scores with information on malpractice, sanctions and medical board action, along with ratings of affiliated hospitals.

Consider these three steps for dealing with online ratings and reviews - and managing what is being said about you and your practice:

1. Google yourself. Start by Googling your name and practice name to see what comes up. Likewise, visit some of the more well-utilized sites, which include:
http://DrScore.com
http://HealthGrades.com
http://RateMDs.com
http://Revolutionhealth.com
http://Vitals.com
http://ZocDoc.com
http://Avvo.com 

And don’t forget the growing number of rating and review sites that allow postings related to any industry, such as these sites:
http://Yellowpages.com
http://Angieslist.com
http://local.yahoo.com 

It’s important to review as many of these sites as you can. One site may feature nothing but five-star reviews, while another may host a scathing critique from a patient with an axe to grind. Establish a schedule for regularly monitoring a handful of sites.

2. Correct and update. At the very least, visiting these sites will give you the chance to update any information posted about you that may be incorrect (old addresses and phone numbers, inoperable links, etc.).

3. Establish a monitoring schedule. Consider assigning a computer-savvy staffer the responsibility for monitoring these sites on a regular basis.

Repairing the Damage
The absolute worst thing any provider can do is ignore what is being said online. Consider these steps:

  • Respond. In most cases, it is best not to get into an online shouting match with a disgruntled patient. You only look defensive responding with a pedantic, point-by-point refutation of a negative review. It’s better to post a more-general response, such as: “Downtown Pediatrics aims to provide each patient with the highest quality of care in a respectful, friendly environment. Please check our website for more information.”

Note that it is extremely difficult to have a negative review removed from a commercial website. Your best defense is to check for any violations of the site’s “terms of use” agreement, which typically forbids obscenities or hateful language.

  • Seek out and share positive comments. Encourage satisfied patients to submit their own reviews and comments - perhaps with a simple sign in the waiting room or checkout area that refers them to one or two review sites that you have already vetted. Likewise, post any positive comments from patients on your practice website, along with your credentials, honors, accomplishments and other information.
  • Refer visitors to health plan websites. Link from your practice website to the websites of health plans in which you participate. These typically highlight data on provider partners, who are selected (in part) based on their experience and patient outcomes, as well as feedback from other physicians.
  • Bring in the pros. So-called “reputation management” companies - such as http://reputation.com, http://reputationaccelerator.com or http://lifehacker.com - promise to bury inaccurate or misleading content and continuously monitor and notify you of attacks against your reputation.
  • Learn from it. Of course, the best defense is to practice good medicine and communicate clearly with patients. Yet, there may be areas of the patient experience that you are not privy to — what happens when a patient calls in, how patients are greeted by staff, how billing is handled, etc. You may be able to learn the unvarnished truth from a patient’s own words.

Word of Mouth Matters
As review and rating sites gather more data and become more established, consulting them will become as commonplace among patients as reading a restaurant review. Savvy healthcare providers are taking steps now to strategically and continually manage what is being said.

Healthcare Practice Strategies – Winter 2012 

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