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Four ways to attract prospective patients online

By Lindsay Burton

Nearly 80 percent of online health seekers say they began at a search engine such as Google, Bing or Yahoo, according to Pew Research. As patients become more vocal online about their healthcare experience than ever before, providers need to be increasingly cognizant of their online reputation.

To attract new patients and grow practices, providers must focus on building an appealing online presence. Here are four ways to make that happen:

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1) Build a robust online review program
According to the findings from a 2017 survey of U.S. healthcare consumers by Reputation.com, an overwhelming majority of patients consult online reviews during their search for a provider. Consider the following:

• 82 percent of respondents had read online reviews to help them evaluate a healthcare provider
• 80 percent of respondents claimed the ratings and reviews influenced their choice of provider
• More than two-thirds of respondents had selected one provider over another based on ratings and reviews

What’s more, consumers want to read six or more reviews to fairly assess a provider. So it’s troubling that an analysis of physician profiles on Google found that the majority of physicians have zero reviews (77%). Of those physicians who do have reviews, the average has just one review. This means most providers currently are not catering to their customers’ preferences and behavioral patterns, which is never a sound strategy for success.

Beyond appealing to today’s healthcare consumer, providers who effectively manage their online reputation can also glean valuable customer feedback and insight from online reviews. For example, if several patients are disappointed by wait times, actively monitoring online reviews can inform the organization quickly of the issue. The organization can then immediately respond to patient reviews and make changes to operations. The opportunity to proactively rectify the issue can save the provider from the costly impact of losing patients in the long run.

2) Make sure your reviews are current
Online reviews lose their relevance and impact if they’re out-of-date. In fact, if a review is more than a year old, its impact is greatly diminished: More than three-quarters (77 percent) of healthcare consumers want to read an online review that has been posted within the past year as they assess and choose a physician.

Consumers also want to see reviews that have been responded to by the physician or healthcare organization. This online engagement demonstrates to both current and prospective customers that they not only value patient feedback, but that the organization is doing everything possible to use that feedback to improve patient experience. Physicians should work with their organizations to develop a review responding protocol that delegates responders and ensures patient privacy is being maintained.

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