Ready to become partners in their own health, more and more people are now turning to the Internet to make their health decisions. They are empowered and take advantage of online processes, health portals, social media channels, review websites and physician web pages. This new category of healthcare consumer is slowly redefining the physician-patient relationship.
Dynamics of the changing landscape
There was a time when people took their medical questions directly to the physician they trusted. The physician in turn answered their questions, advised treatment and treated patients. Today, people are turning to the Internet for not only everyday medical information but also for diagnosing their health conditions. Smartphones, mobile apps, social media and physician-review websites have revolutionized the way healthcare consumers communicate. This new phenomenon has brought new challenges for healthcare professionals. These days, a physician’s digital DNA governs his or her reputation. The new “word-of-mouth” is “click-of-mouse” in this digital era. Before visiting a doctor, patients now conduct a thorough analysis of the physician’s online reputation. Therefore, it is essential for physicians to manage their digital footprint.
Why is it important to maintain an online reputation?
Gathering information via the Internet and social media has become embedded in our culture. Informed consumers, including payers and patients, garner information on the Internet to research potential providers. The various search engines employ user-created content on social media platforms, review sites, testimonials and blogs. Patients rely on the information they gather from these platforms and form opinions about visiting or not visiting a physician.
It’s said that in any business, reputation is everything, and the digital influences have become very powerful entities. For physicians, this can be a boon for their reputation if the words are positive. On the other hand, incorrect, fraudulent and biased views expressed on the Internet could have detrimental effects on your reputation and may affect your practice negatively.
How can physicians manage their online reputation?
Physicians and all healthcare providers across the healthcare value chain need to put in proactive measures to manage and maintain their online reputation. They can begin with the following 3 easy steps:
Step 1: Discover what your patients are talking about you
The foremost step in reputation management is to Google and figure out what is being said about you. The search results will provide a general view of your reputation and how you are perceived in the digital world. Once you navigate through the ranking pages, it will give a clear picture of your online reputation. Set up an email alert using some specific keywords like your name, hospital’s name, your specialization, etc., so that you stay updated whenever someone posts about you.
You should also evaluate some of the top physician review websites like ratemymd, yelp.com, vitals.com, healthgrades.com and social media channels (like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn). A thorough analysis will help you identify what patients are saying about you.
Step 2: Set up a strategy to manage your reputation
Take the first step to protect your online reputation and request your Online Reputation Assessment.
Maintain an active online presence
Even if you are not active on the Internet, your reputation is. Physician rating websites are gaining popularity at an alarming rate. Create your profile on the major rating websites so that you are aware of what is being said about you on these platforms.
Whenever there is any review/feedback, reply instantaneously. Active social engagement is a positive sign of building a good online reputation. You can flag negative reviews by signing up on Google, Facebook, Yelp, etc. You’ll get an email each time someone writes a negative review. Address the comment publicly so that others can see that you are taking the issues and complaints seriously.
Be “proactive” not “reactive” for negative reviews
The magnitude of impact these reviews have on customers is huge and can affect the overall success rating for any physician. Physicians need to realize the inevitable fact that there will always be some negative or critical reviews written about you. Dealing with the reviews optimistically opens up the lines of communication between the physician and the patients. Don’t fear a professional online interaction and figure out the “right way” to fight negative online reviews.
Step 3: Transform your online image to a credible one
Physicians should take a positive approach while responding to these reviews and use them as building blocks to improve the patient experience and satisfaction. Some of the common online complaints relate to issues like staff friendliness, availability of appointments, ease of scheduling, punctuality, attentiveness, listening skills of the physician, explanation of medical care/treatment, office cleanliness, lab services, follow-ups and bedside manner. Physicians can enhance the patient experience by taking appropriate steps to resolve these complaints.
A quick wrap up
The trend of the changing physician-patient relationship is here to stay! Owing to the increasing competitiveness of the healthcare market, it is imperative for doctors to not only market their services but maintain a positive online reputation, as well. Reaching these online reputation management goals requires significant investment of time and dedicated efforts. The result will be better awareness of patient needs, which will enable physicians to treat patients as an active partner in managing their own health.