By Rebecca Farrington, AuntMinnie.com contributing writer

May 2, 2019 -- Word of mouth from friends and family was once enough to inform our decisions. But today, advice from the internet has taken precedence over recommendations from those we know personally -- and this is especially true in healthcare.

Patients are turning to the internet to research physicians, practices, and procedures before they even call the office to make an appointment. Individuals seeking care are more likely to choose physicians with high ratings and positive reviews over physicians with a less-than-stellar online presence.

Physicians need to be serious about their online reputation and take the necessary steps to ensure it is positive. There are a few key components to cultivating and maintaining a successful online presence.

Social media usage

With more than three-quarters of the American population actively engaged with social media, it is a communications medium that is here to stay. If your practice has several different social media sites, it is important that you maintain consistency across all of them, ensuring that the messaging and branding are the same on each one.

Consider creating a social media policy to empower members of your practice to use social media appropriately. An example of an employee social media policy is available from the Mayo Clinic. Depending on the policy that a practice adopts, physicians can consider separating their social media into personal and professional accounts.

Monitoring patient reviews

Rebecca Farrington
Rebecca Farrington from Healthcare Administrative Partners.

Patients have several online outlets available to leave physician reviews, including Facebook, Google, Yelp, and Healthgrades -- just to name a few. It is important to ask your patients about their experience and encourage them to leave positive reviews. Practices can do this by asking patients to rate their visit on a tablet in the waiting room before they leave or by following up with an email that includes a link to leave a review while the visit is still fresh in their minds. Make sure you thank patients for their positive feedback.

It is extremely important to respond appropriately to any negative reviews you might receive on any platform. Do not ignore a negative review and expect it to just fade away. Consider discussing who should respond to the review; it might not be the physician but someone else in the practice. Be timely with your response, and make a concerted effort to understand the issue that prompted the person's complaint. Be mindful of the tone of your response, and be careful you don't violate HIPAA when addressing any of the patient's case specifics online.

Unique challenges for radiologists

Since many radiologists do not see the patients themselves because of their physical location, it is easy for radiologists to assume they do not have to worry about their online presence, but that is not the case. Negative feedback can come in the form of complaints about a bill, so you should work with your revenue cycle partner to ensure such problems don't occur in the first place.

One of our radiology clients noted that when a patient does get face time with a radiologist, reviews are generally positive, so it is important for radiologists to make the most of the time they spend with patients when the opportunity arises.

The internet is a powerful tool that physicians can use to boost their practice performance if they make the commitment to maintaining a positive online reputation.

Rebecca Farrington serves as the chief revenue officer for Healthcare Administrative Partners. She has more than 20 years of experience in healthcare sales and management roles, focusing on hospital-based and physician revenue cycle management.

The comments and observations expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of AuntMinnie.com.


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