Physicians are frustrated to see past patients post damaging comments about their experience with a physician practice or doctor’s office staff. The sad reality is that customer complaint boards (often referred to disparagingly as “bitch boards”) have elbowed into the marketplace to put themselves in the middle of the purchase decision for future patients to a doctor’s office.
Much like how Trip Advisor disrupted the hospitality industry by providing a feedback board from travelers as customers to hotels, resorts and airlines, the healthcare complaint boards have similarly disrupted the entire healthcare industry.
The largest websites are Healthgrades, RateMDs, Vitals, Yelp and Google Reviews. Facebook also provides a way patients can post information about a business. Many of these websites will automatically create a profile for each doctor or business, regardless whether the doctor wants it or not. Some physicians are surprised to learn that Facebook creates a rogue page that is administered by no one. Consequently, it is important to claim your profile, and then manage your reputation on these sites to control how you are viewed by prospective patients. Often the information that ends up on these boards can be inaccurate or out of date, and can steer away your most desirable prospective patient.
These complaint boards have established themselves as a public kiosk where patients can post their comments about their experience on their trip to the doctor. However, even the media recognizes that patients are often not qualified to judge the quality of their medical care. Case in point: It is common for chronic pain patients to go from doctor to doctor in search of narcotics. However, every physician knows these drugs can damage the patient’s internal organs. Also, patients are unaware that physicians legally are at risk of losing their medical license if they prescribe certain drugs. In summary, physicians are often the ones to provide recommendations that patients don’t want to hear.
When that happens, disgruntled and angry patients can go online to vent on the growing number of complaint boards as a way to “get even” with the physician.
Worse, these same complaint boards typically have little interest in the validity or accuracy of patient comments. In some cases, patients can post outright slanderous comments that can negatively affect the flow of future patients to a physician practice, and the physician has no control over the process. Most of the complaint boards have little interest in policing the validity or honesty of the patient comments that are posted. They merely act like a public kiosk in the Town Square where citizens can post whatever they like.
The complaint boards make money by selling advertising on their sites to the growing number of eyeballs of prospective patients looking to find out information before selecting a physician. Some of the complaint boards can be hostile to physicians and have no motivation to change slanderous or inaccurate comments. They cite legal precedent that enables them to post virtually any comment online.
Consequently, "Reputation Management” has become a new function that is vital for any physician practice. Reputation management relates to maintaining and shaping positive customer feedback by influencing and controlling online information and customer postings about your business or services. Reputation management includes managing what past patients post on online message boards like Healthgrades, Vitals, Yelp, RateMDs and Google Reviews.
Reputation management can also refer to search engine optimization for keywords that enable a medical practice to score in the top 10 on Google. Understanding how social media websites and Internet advertising can help your business is vital to control your business’s reputation across all online fronts.
Medingenuity staff does Reputation Management for dozens of physician groups nationally. The steps related to Reputation Management include:
In a sense, the emergence of complain boards was made possible by the vacuum of objective data on the quality of healthcare services. Just as the JD Powers automotive surveys provide an objective ranking of the most reliable cars, healthcare is in need of an objective ranking of physicians. Without that, patients will continue to post comments based on their perceptions rather than medical expertise.
While some physicians are stuck in denial and anger about the emergence of complaint boards, Medingenuity helps physicians regain control over their medical reputation with a Reputation Management system that constantly monitors online review boards and the reputation, address potentially damaging negative reviews, and continually ask for customer feedback on a regular basis to maintain a positive relationship with customers, in which early warning signals to problems can be detected and corrected.
These online customer review websites greatly contribute to your online reputation. So it is important to regularly review these four major reputation websites to keep your business displaying the most positive reviews and minimize the negativity. If a doctor was searched on Google, Healthgrades and Vitals will most likely show up on the first page of a Google search. This is important because if you have a bad reputation online, it will have a negative impact on your business.
It is important to note that unfortunately there is nothing stopping somebody from complaining online anonymously, and also writing a false and libelous review. Healthgrades and Vitals do have options to contact them but the burden falls on the company to prove the review is slanderous and outright false.
Healthgrades is an online database of healthcare providers that has over 100 million users. If a potential new customer searches Google about you and your practice, most likely Healthgrades will be the next highest search result right after your individual business website listing at the #1 top spot. Healthgrades creates profiles for most doctors by default due to publicly available information. The doctor (or the designated reputation management agency) will have to give specific individual information to “claim" the profile page. Once we have a login and password, we are then able to make correct physician information and respond to patient satisfaction surveys and opinions.
RateMDs has over one million healthcare providers and millions of reviews by consumers. It states that millions of potential customers are using RateMDs for information before making health care decisions. RateMDs allows customers to rate their physicians and staff, and leave anonymous personal reviews about their experience. The physicians with the most positive reviews will appear at the top with the highest ranking. As with Healthgrades, RateMDs may take down a fake or false review if you provide documentation stating why the review is false.
Vitals is another large online database of healthcare providers where users can search their website based on specialty, doctor or condition. Vitals follows roughly the same principles of how to claim a Profile as Healthgrades. Reviews can include information such as wait time, staff, and overall doctor’s manners and users can also write personalized messages about their experience. Vitals also has the option of patients leaving anonymous reviews, so it’s important to frequently check all healthcare rating websites to maintain a strong positive online reputation.
Yelp is another online review site that consistently ranks on the first page of Google search results. Yelp includes all businesses and services, including restaurants and healthcare providers. Healthgrades and Vitals are the most dominate review sites for healthcare providers, but a Yelp profile will also be visible on Google so its important that your doctor’s profile be groomed the best. Yelp users rate their experience out of five stars and can write a personal review that can be publicly viewed. Once you go through the normal steps to claim a doctor’s profile, then the doctor can respond publicly or privately to these reviews. Unfortunately, Yelp can be the most troublesome profile to maintain. Yelp makes it very difficult to even claim your own profile, and also has numerous fees when it comes to straightening out problems within the Yelp website that may be due to no fault of your own. Yelp also limits the number of claims you can make unless you pay. All negative reviews cannot be removed unless a formal request is made to their support staff and results may vary from what they remove or keep.
Just as improving your search engine optimization (SEO) will benefit your exposure of your practice, maintaining a strong reputation across these 4 main mediums is just as important and helps generate new customers. One study shows that up to 80% of consumers of certain products or medical services regularly check online reviews before making a purchase or service decision. A failure to maintain your online reputation can be the difference between a customer coming into your doctor office or going somewhere else (who has effectively managed a positive online reputation). The reputation of your practice and doctors within the practice can be greatly impacted by these online rating sites.