The healthcare industry has seen a major shift from being provider-driven to patient-driven. Patients are treating healthcare like any other service they can buy, and many look to online reviews to gather more information before selecting new providers.
As many as 8 in 10 patients consult physician reviews before selecting a healthcare provider, making it vital for healthcare organizations to not only monitor what’s being said but to participate in the conversation as well.
Patient reviews can provide a wealth of information for providers, too. Engaging with reviewers’ concerns and issues can help practices and hospitals create true opportunities for online service recovery while communicating that patient experience is a top priority.
By following these five best practices for engaging patients online, you can help impact patient loyalty and ensure your providers’ reputations are better monitored and managed.
1. Establish a patient review response system
This should include everything from response timelines to who should be managing responses. Most often, this falls under your organization’s social media policy, which sets forth guidelines on tone, language and the like to ensure that those handling reviews and responses, especially via highly visible social media channels, are using the same “voice.” Having a written policy helps prevent staff members from not appropriately addressing the concerns posted in negative views and ensuring responses are in compliance with HIPAA and other healthcare industry regulations.
It’s also a good practice to draft scripted responses for common issues that arise in multiple reviews, such as comments about wait times. You can add some customization, using templates helps to speed up engagement response time.
For a final check before a comment is publicly posted, consider setting up an approval system. Individuals who are closer to the issue can draft a response, but a marketing team member, for example, can give final sign off before the review is released.
2. Set separate workflows for responding to both positive and negative reviews
Some organizations might consider a 3-star review a marginal review; others, a 2.8-star review. It’s important to set a baseline so your team is not wasting time discussing which warrants a response every single day.
Implementing a patient experience platform can help you streamline this process by flagging any reviews that need attention and response, either based on the sentiment or flagged keywords (e.g. malpractice, lawsuit). Knowing where there are opportunities to improve are critical for any healthcare organization. Getting to the root cause of smaller issues can help them from spiraling into larger problems.
Additionally, it’s good practice to respond to positive patient reviews as well. Doing this will show you’re engaged and your organization values authentic feedback.
3. Address issues in a timely manner
There is no way to “bury” or delete negative reviews – in fact, you should embrace them and learn from them. Ignoring negative comments or patient reviews only allows frustration to build. Responding quickly and working to resolve the underlying problem can reflect positively on your healthcare organization – and influence the patient to change their review to a positive one. If the issue is an operational issue, such as the lack of large hospital gowns, survey your patients after making corrections to see if the issue is resolved.
4. Know when to take a conversation offline
Some patient complaints are best dealt with privately, either because of the sensitivity of the issue or because the problem needs to be escalated to a patient advocacy group. Always keep in mind that people want to be heard and receive authentic responses from someone who can fix the situation. A patient experience platform helps you streamline this process by notifying you when new reviews arrive in the system, ensuring that the most serious issues are resolved more quickly.
5. Be proactive in requesting reviews
To offset lower ratings, proactively ask patients for reviews. Be sure you know the rules around suggestions versus solicitation. You can suggest the patient leave a review in many ways and at different points in the relationship. For example, you can gauge the patient’s experience, and then ask them to share their experience online. Or, if you have an online patient portal, you can add an online review link or embed in an appointment reminder email—the opportunities are endless. This can dramatically increase the number of completed surveys and raise your average ratings.
As patients continue to embrace their roles as consumers and seek out reviews before selecting providers, it becomes even more important for healthcare organizations to engage with patients online. Timely, authentic responses not only convey that patient experience is a top priority, but they also help practices and providers uncover opportunities for improvement and create a dialog with patients. These best practices all contribute to the overarching strategy of keeping patients happy, which is a win-win for everyone.
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