Why Can’t We All Get Along Online?

In a panel at MedCityENGAGE, healthcare insiders talked about why online reviews can be a life or death issue — literally.

Approximately 84 percent of people will go online to evaluate doctors at some point, a stat that shows the major implications online reviews have for healthcare providers and hospitals as a whole. Just as is the case with other verticals, from restaurants to retail, the physical front door is no longer the true “front door” to a healthcare practice — Google is.

“The first experience people are going to have with a hospital or practice is its [proprietary] website, and then it’s probably three of the review sites,” said Sunnie Southern, founder and CEO at Viable Synergy, in a panel at San Diego’s MedCityENGAGE conference. “Healthcare professionals need to figure out how to manage this — and respond to it — so that the care they provide is reflected truly online.”

The growing discipline of digital location management is applicable across all types of businesses. But when it comes to hospitals, it’s even more important: Making sure that people have the correct location and specialty information — and that the best care is being provided — can truly be a matter of life and death.

Beyond offering that great care and service, here’s what healthcare providers can do to make the right impression at the “digital front door.”

  • Claim Your Listings: Because people know to search online for “[service] near me” when they’re looking for something local, it’s almost guaranteed that people searching for healthcare facilities will see a local listing on Yelp or a similar site. However, many of these listings are unclaimed by healthcare professionals — meaning that the only content available is what has been put there by patients or even outsiders.

This is why it is essential to log onto sites like Yelp, claim your business, and then use the tools available to start all digital interactions on the right foot. This means adding a detailed description of the practice, listing special services provided, and also furnishing professional images of the space and the doctors on staff. “There’s an element of fear and emotion in the air when looking for a doctor,” said Emily Washcovick, manager of business outreach at Yelp. “If someone can see images of the doctors and the front desk staff, an inviting looking office, et cetera, that can help.” Plus, there is inherent value in claiming and updating review site information beyond simply winning over a new patient: “If you don’t claim your listing and the information is out of date, we’ve had people go to the wrong location,” Southern said. “That’s incredibly frustrating.” Or, in extreme cases, dangerous.

  • React and respond — to the positive and negative: “We respond to everything across social media, Yelp, and more,” said Jennifer Balanky, manager of digital content at Sharp Healthcare. “People are watching.” But what makes for a good, engaging response to a review, whether good or bad? The panelists recommended a multi-pronged approach specifically for healthcare: First, thank the reviewer for providing feedback. Then — addressing the substance of the review in all ways possible — talk about attributes that you pride yourself on at your office. Finally, take the conversation offline by providing a contact email or reaching out personally: Especially in a medical setting, it’s absolutely crucial not to refer to specific illnesses or appointments that might exploit privacy or let the dialogue spiral.
  • Use the data points across sites for future improvement: While bad reviews do happen to the best places, it is still worth considering feedback across platforms to think about how you can improve your service, your practice, and to create a forward outlook. Most importantly: Now is the time to look at your digital presence and develop a strategy. “It’s crucial to have a system,” Washcovick concluded. “You can’t wait until a bad review or something similar happens to decide what to do — you need to have a process in place, whether that’s a designated team that handles reviews and social media, whether you work with [a partner] company specializing in [presence management,] or something else.”
About The Author
Lauryn Chamberlain Lauryn Chamberlain @laurynchamberla

Lauryn Chamberlain is the Associate Editor of A New York City based journalist, she specializes in stories related to retail, dining, hospitality, and travel.