‘More than advertising’: How online reviews may help grow a physician’s practice
When it comes to online reviews, physicians should consider online reviews before advertising as reviews not only improve physician visibility online, but also reassure patients about the care they will receive prior to their visit.
“It’s the same reason you look for good reviews on Amazon, even when you’re buying a product that you already know you’re going to purchase,” Orrin I. Franko, MD, founder of SurgiSurvey LLC and a board-certified orthopedic surgeon at East Bay Hand Medical Center, told Healio. “The reassurance of knowing that other patients have had a good experience with the doctor makes [patients] walk into your office feeling positive and excited about the visit and, of course, there is a benefit to having great online reviews. It improves your website search ranking. It helps new patients find you and it builds patient trust.”
Critical for any career stage
Franko said online reviews are critical for physicians at any stage in their career. For early career physicians, he said online reviews can accelerate the trajectory of the practice’s growth.
“We all know that it takes a few years to build a strong referral network, but it’s an exponential growth curve and just a small increase in the growth rate early on will dramatically increase and accelerate the time to which you get a full and robust practice,” Franko said.
He added mid-career physicians can grow their online profile and reputation to narrow their practice into the specific subspecialty they are interested in, while online reviews help late-career physicians maintain trust with patients and remain competitive in an ever-changing marketplace.
“It is also important to remember that often surgeons who are retiring are passing the torch on to a younger doctor,” Franko said. “That may be someone looking to buy out your practice or just take over your practice, and they would be interested in taking over a practice that already has a strong online reputation.”
Free, easy to start
If physicians do not have a profile on a review website, such as Google, Health Grades, Yelp or Vitals, Franko said they can make one for free. Once a profile is made, physicians need to ask current and new patients to leave a review, which many physicians may have concerns about or feel uncomfortable doing. However, Franko noted physicians do not need to directly request patients to leave a review, but instead use a third-party service that directs patients to where they can leave a review.
“It’s most effective to ask for reviews via email or via text message in a way that comes from a third-party or from your office as a whole, so it’s not so awkward,” he said.
Asking patients to leave a review directly is not the most effective way to acquire reviews, according to Franko.
“[Patients] tend to forget. They don’t know what website to go to and the overall response rate for direct request is less than 1%,” Franko said.
Once a physician has a review page set up, Franko said it is important to “keep [the reviews] coming and keep them current.”
“We’re all so lucky that most doctors are seeing 1,000 patients a year or more and even if you only collect 5% or 8% of those patients leaving you a review, that’s still 50 to 80 new reviews,” Franko said. “Imagine a doctor who’s just 3 or 4 years out of fellowship or residency and already has 200 five-star reviews. That’s essentially untouchable. You’re basically set for the rest of your career. So, I would say there is no reason to wait – it’s free, it’s easy to set up and just get started.”