Most patients today look up your hospital or physician practice on the web before scheduling an appointment. Understanding their perspective – and therefore understanding what brings them through the door – is all about knowing how they find a doctor’s reputation online.
Binary Fountain’s 2019 Healthcare Consumer Insight survey found that more than 60% of patients start their search online. Additionally, 40% rely on other patients’ online reviews to find a doctor. A 2018 Patient Access Journey Report by Kyruus reports that 91% of patients conduct research online, even after receiving a referral for a medical provider.
What does this mean? Consumers want access to convenient, quality care and are willing to do their own research to find it. Though a search may start by asking a friend, patients are finding doctors’ reputations online before scheduling an appointment.
How much would it help your facility to fully understand how patients are finding physicians through an online search? The short answer: a lot.
In this article, we’ll cover all the ways that patients find out about a doctor’s reputation online. Then, we’ll prepare you to build a strategy for managing and improving those reputations.
Consumers want to know what people are saying about their quality of care and experience at your medical facility.
In general, patients look at online reviews to see how you are rated in the following areas:
- Quality of care
- Wait times
- Experience with staff
- Ease of booking appointments
- Accuracy of diagnosis
- Amount of time spent with patients
Google uses online reviews to determine what businesses and services will take the best care of their users. As a result, Google is more likely to show organizations with positive reviews in local searches. It should be noted that many variables impact local search engine result pages beyond the number and quality of doctor reviews. However, having quality patient feedback will help your practice rank in search results.
Google’s algorithm is specifically looking for:
- Number of patient reviews
- Recency of reviews
- Overall star rating
- Proactive engagement by business owners (responding to reviews)
Google already knows that most users want local results, especially when it comes to medical services. It will automatically display the most locally relevant providers above all else.
Supplying this data can help you appear in search results and will also help you attract new customers. Healthcare consumers trust online reviews as much as a personal referral. You must continuously monitor your online reviews to understand which operational improvements you can make to increase patient satisfaction.
Doctor Review Sites
Healthcare-specific review sites are a top monitoring priority as you build a complete picture of your doctors’ online reputations. Create and maintain doctor profiles on the most popular directories, such as Healthgrades, Vitals, and ZocDoc. These platforms have massive reach and factor into your search rankings.
ZocDoc allows patients to find providers, book appointments, fill out health forms digitally, and leave reviews and ratings. While providers may get occasional negative reviews, ZocDoc allows physicians to request feedback from every patient after their visit.
Vitals also aims to be a single source for health information. Currently, it has over 1 million physician profiles on the site. Patients can book appointments, read more about the providers’ backgrounds, and view each provider’s reviews. Vitals currently boasts over 9 million reviews and ratings, making it a treasure trove for nailing down a doctor’s reputation.
Healthgrades is similar to Vitals in many ways. It allows users to categorize their search and has collected a comparable number of reviews and profiles on its platform. It also allows providers to send postcards and emails to previous patients that encourage them to leave reviews on the site.
One of the more intuitive doctor review sites, RateMDs, has a knack for knowing what patients truly care about. In addition to having more than 1 million reviews, its five-star physician rating system is broken into relatable categories. Examples of these categories include punctuality, helpfulness, and knowledge. Patients can chime in specifically on things like cleanliness, treatment from the staff, and overall value, too.
CareDash stands out among sites that collect and display patient ratings and reviews by requiring patients to create an account. The patient profile requirement helps to ensure that reviews are from real patients. Claiming your CareDash profile will help you gain trust from potential patients and nudge them toward booking an appointment.
Through a partnership with Binary Fountain, patient experience (PX) scores are now featured on its nationwide network of physician profiles. They rate physicians on PX categories such as communication and bedside manner.
What Wellness.com lacks in elegance, it makes up for in information and functionality. Online users can find plenty of details when looking for providers and doctors on this platform. That includes accepted insurance, education history, special services, hospital affiliations, and more.
Wellness.com also offers tools for featured advertising, boosting search engine presence, and reputation management.
Studies have shown that patients place a high value on their physicians’ personalities. One 2017 study by ZocDoc found that 43% of Americans wanted a doctor with a sense of humor. 45% of men and 59% of women thought that a doctor’s likability by others was important. Social media accounts are a chance for your lovable personality to shine.
A presence on major social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram can boost your exposure to healthcare consumers. Both healthcare organizations and individual physicians can benefit from a social presence. But anyone creating social media profiles must commit to keeping them updated and responding to new reviews. Social media profiles need to show occasional activity, as unmanaged profiles make it appear that you’ve gone out of business.
With a growing number of doctors using social networking sites, it’s easier to determine their personality and attitudes before ever meeting. Giving your patients a view into your providers’ social media pages increases transparency and builds trust.
Physician reputations are displayed all over the web, far beyond Google, Healthgrades, and Facebook.
Many private or nonprofit sites provide information at no cost to patients. These include professional certification boards to those that are advertising-based or charge fees to doctors and practices to be listed.
Insurance company sites also attract high traffic from patients searching for care. Several health insurance organizations have built doctor reference sites for customers.
Doctors can often quickly change insurance offerings, so you should update insurance information for your practice frequently. You may fear that this could drive away clients, but don’t fret. A 2019 Software Advice survey found that nearly half of respondents would go out of network for favorably reviewed providers.
Government sites also provide information about doctors licensed in their states. For example, the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) website lists basic data through its DocInfo.org search function. You will find the doctor’s board certifications, education, states with active licenses, and any malpractice-related actions against the physician.
Boost Your Reputation and Get Found
Physicians with the best online reputations don’t wait around for a five-star rating. Demonstrating your expertise in your field and activity in the medical community will go a long way towards trust-building.
Here are some quick tips for proactively maintaining your physicians’ online listings:
- In addition to establishing expertise, try to win the local SEO battle for your specialty. Focus on search engine optimization tactics to get your practice on the first page of Google and other search engines.
- Ensure that your phone numbers, location addresses, and hours of operation are all correct, so patients may easily find you. Consider a listings management technology solution for multiple locations.
- If your practice has claimed a Google My Business profile, you should also build out the Q&A section. Answer common questions that users might type in a search query.
Generally speaking, the more reviews you have, the stronger your doctors’ reputations will be, even if some reviews are negative. Do your best to obtain more reviews for your practice while responding to all reviews with helpful and authentic responses.
Don’t wait for your doctors’ reputations to build themselves. Be proactive, monitor your listings, and dominate local physician searches to stand apart from competitors.
Want to learn more about how Binary Fountain can give your online reputation a boost?
About the Author
Content Marketing Specialist