March 2020

INSIDE THE PRACTICE

Growing your number of online reviews


by Liz Hillman Editorial Co-Director

Surgeons are acutely aware of the importance of word-of-mouth referrals and, to Lance Kugler, MD, online reviews are simply an extension of that lead source, yet with the potential to reach a much broader audience.
While the accuracy of these reviews reflecting clinical performance has been questioned,1 they are of growing interest to potential patients and could influence their search for a new physician. In 2012, a nationally representative sample of the U.S. population was surveyed about online ratings and more than half (59%) said physician rating sites were “somewhat important” or “very important” in physician choice.2 The experiences of friends and family carried more clout than online reviews, according to the report. At this time, 35% said they had chosen a physician based on positive ratings, while 37% avoided other physicians due to negative reviews. A more recent survey conducted by the website Software Advice found that 72% of respondents use review sites to select a new provider.3 One study found that “individuals [perceived] nonclinical ratings provided by commercial websites as important as clinical ratings provided by government websites when choosing a primary care physician.”4
EyeWorld asked Dr. Kugler, Trent Richards, MD, and Josh Weiner, president and chief operating officer at Solutionreach, to share some ideas for growing your body of online reviews.

Do doctors realize the influence that online reviews can have on patients?

According to Mr. Weiner, physician awareness is growing, but he acknowledged that doctors and office staff worry that encouraging reviews could open the door to potential negative feedback. Many also think word-of-mouth referrals are more effective.
“Data shows that even when someone gets a personal referral, they still go out and look you up online,” Mr. Weiner said. “In addition, reviews impact [search engine optimization]. They represent about 15% of the search ranking. In other words, they also help you get found, so it’s a big deal.”
Dr. Richards said he thinks physicians in established practices might underestimate the value of online reviews.
“Online reviews can help patients have confidence in a new physician. They are able to read about how others have had a great experience, which makes them feel confident in the physician’s ability to care for them. I think they are vital for anyone who is looking to recruit new patients,” Dr. Richards said.

How do doctors encourage patients to take the time to give ratings and reviews online?

The first thing is to ask, Mr. Weiner said. “It’s ideal to ask in person, and it’s more effective when it is a provider asking,” he said, adding that sending a follow-up text from someone in the office is the next best thing. “The sooner you can send it, the better, ideally before the patient even leaves the office. You want to get them while the visit is fresh in their mind, and having it come from someone they just interacted with is best.”
There are apps that allow the provider or staff person to simply click a button to send texts like this, making it easy, Mr. Weiner said. You can even automate sending out a text to every patient after their visit. He also suggested focusing on areas where people are already sharing reviews, like Facebook and Google.
Eliminating friction and effort is key for gaining reviews, Dr. Kugler said.
“Often simply making them aware of the platform on which to write a review and providing them with a link is enough for them to take 5 minutes of their time to share their experience,” Dr. Kugler said.
Dr. Richards said he created business cards that have URLs for online review websites. He hands them to patients at the end of each visit and asks if they might review their experience, explaining why such reviews are important to him and the practice.
“Our clinic also uses a texting platform to reach out to patients after their appointments to request feedback via Google or Facebook review,” he said.
Mr. Weiner said to avoid “gating”—or purposely only sending invitations to patients likely to give high marks—and incentives.
“These tactics are now frowned on by many sites and can result in reviews being removed or given a lower status,” he explained.

How do you think patient satisfaction relates to leaving a review?

The best online reviews happen organically, Dr. Kugler said, as a result of an amazing customer experience.
“The reality is that there are no shortcuts to authentic patient reviews. Effort should be focused on creating an incredible experience and outcome for patients, and the reviews will follow,” Dr. Kugler said.
There is an assumption that people only leave bad reviews, Mr. Weiner said. The data, however, suggests that only a small portion of people leave bad reviews.
“Just because someone has a bad experience, that doesn’t mean they will leave you a bad review,” he said. “The majority of happy patients say they would gladly leave a review if they were asked.”
Dr. Richards said you can’t take negative reviews personally and you also can’t fear them.
“Always watch for them and respond to them in a timely fashion. The way you respond will tell patients a lot about you and your practice. Taking the initiative to load your page with positive reviews will also help offset any negative reviews that come your way,” he said.

About the sources

Lance Kugler, MD
Assistant professor
Stanley M. Truhlsen Eye Institute
Omaha, Nebraska

Trent Richards, MD
Tanner Clinic
Layton, Utah

Josh Weiner
President and chief operating officer
Solutionreach
Salt Lake City, Utah

References

1. Daskivich TJ, et al. Online physician ratings fail to predict actual performance on measures of quality, value, and peer review. J Am Med Inform Assoc. 2018;25:401–407.
2. Hanauer DA, et al. Public awareness, perception, and use of online physician rating sites. JAMA. 2014;311:734–5.
3. How patients use online reviews. Software Advice. www.softwareadvice.com/resources/how-patients-use-online-reviews,
4. Yaraghi N, et al. How online quality ratings influence patients’ choice of medical providers: Controlled experimental survey study. J Med Internet Res. 2018;20:e99.

Relevant disclosures

Kugler: None
Richards: None
Weiner: None

Contact

Kugler
: lkugler@kuglervision.com
Richards: marketing@tannerclinic.com
Weiner: jweiner@solutionreach.com
 

Do’s and Don’ts for online reviews

•Do ask patients personally for reviews.
•Don’t only ask patients who you think will review you favorably.
•Do send text messages or emails with links that make leaving a review easier.
•Don’t incentivize leaving reviews, as it could make them seem less trustworthy.
•Don’t be afraid of negative reviews.
•Do address negative reviews quickly, showing that you are in tune with what people are saying and open to improvement.

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