Are medical professionals knowledgeable and trustworthy? Are they compassionate and empathetic? Do they have a good reputation? These are all valid questions that most patients ask when they’re choosing a physician.

In today’s age of technology, patients can quickly access reviews and information about physicians, medical facilities, and their staff. A scathing review from an angry patient or a malpractice lawsuit can destroy a practice in the blink of an eye. And while online reviews are valuable in some industries, they typically don’t give the full scope of a physician’s skills, education, and commitment to his or her vocation.

Despite this, physicians must take their reputations seriously and recognize that in order to grow a healthy practice, they must develop a positive online presence.

Software Advice, a company that provides user reviews on software applications for medical practices, found several interesting conclusions after studying a recent survey.

Survey results…

1.    94% of survey respondents use online reviews to evaluate physicians.

2.    72% of survey respondents analyze online reviews when they need to find a new doctor.

3.    48% of survey respondents would branch out of their insurance network for a provider with overwhelmingly positive reviews.

4.    70% of survey respondents feel it’s at least “very” or “moderately important” for providers to respond privately to their online reviews and address complaints directly.

Remember, a negative review doesn’t have to be true to be posted. It can be the result of something completely unrelated to the patient’s experience with the physician. A crowded parking lot or a rushed nurse can be enough to provoke a dissatisfied patient.

Fortunately, they are steps you can take in order to maintain your online reputation and foster trust with your patients.

Some tips to get you started…

  1. Create an easy process or offer an incentive that will encourage patients to submit good reviews about their positive experiences. If you have existing negative reviews on the web, this will help push them down the page.
  2. Push negative reviews down on search engine results by publishing blogs, press releases, videos, and creating social media accounts that are updated regularly.
  3. Speaking of social media, platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram carry a lot of weight with Google.  These websites will automatically rank on the first page of Google when you search your business name. So, make sure to claim all your social media handles and post content on your accounts regularly.
  4. Consider “guest blogging” and submitting content to other websites that will appear when patients search for your name. In addition, if you’re asked to interview on a podcast, jump on the opportunity to spread your practice’s mission and philosophy.
  5. Build a personal website to advertise your relevant medical/professional experience/education. This can be in addition to a practice website.
  6. Respond privately and directly to reviewers, and ask how you can improve the situation at hand. This type of transparency and authenticity can foster trust, goodwill, and a positive reputation.
  7. There’s strength in numbers. Over time, positive reviews, informative blogs on healthcare-related topics, and content-heavy social media accounts can reverse the damaging effects of negative online reviews.

Keep in mind these four things you shouldn’t do…

  1. Physicians should never directly respond to patients on public websites since it violates HIPAA patient/provider privacy. The best course of action is to contact the patient privately about their specific situation.
  2. However, it is important to respond indirectly and provide ongoing information about quality of care, innovative treatments, and continuing education. This can show that the practice is going above and beyond to provide the best possible care for their patients.
  3. If you’re tempted to take legal action against a review site, such as Yelp, don’t. It’s likely that the review site will divulge that you’re pursuing legal action against them, which can potentially read to further negative reviews.
  4. Stay calm. Don’t respond in way that violates HIPAA or can further damage your reputation.

Most importantly, recognize that negative reviews never go away. They’ll persist online forever. However, they can be minimized with these strategies that should be practiced regularly. Don’t wait until you discover a negative review to act. Start creating and posting content right away, and stay ahead of your reputation.

[Original article here.]