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Healthcare Patient Review Strategies To Build Your Client Base


How to Create an Effective Healthcare Patient Review Strategy

Today, almost every medical business with a marketing plan recognizes the need for a healthcare patient review strategy to build brand credibility and trust. It is a vital component in brand reputation building. Reputation management and positive client testimonials are critical to the success of healthcare providers everywhere due to the rise of digitally connected patients.

While core SEO principles remain, it is key here to remember that what works one month in digital marketing, search in general, and searches related to the healthcare, may not be as effective in subsequent months. SEO and search marketing has one constant – change. The need for positive reviews has always existed and is on the rise. They can put your continuous quality improvements and why you are a better choice than your competition in a reviewer’s own words.

Because of the pressing need and powerful influence of reviews, many healthcare businesses have either opted or are considering hiring on help or paying for an automated healthcare review service. This means that you need to be asking questions about review gating, how to avoid review penalties, and more.

We find another key reason to encourage, nurture, and monitor your patient reviews.

Google is Drawing More Often From It’s Review Repository

Google announced the complete roll-out of its Q&A answers coming from reviews.

“A notable change with this feature is that auto-suggest is no longer being pulled from Q&A and reviews. Instead, Google now exclusively uses Google reviews to pull information. So there you have it, Google will use its natural language processing and sentiment analysis to return answers based on customer reviews, and will highlight sentences in bold that relate to the words used in the question.

 

“If you are struggling in this area, we suggest you focus on improving your business model so that you can emerge as a winner here.” – Marie Haynes

 

Businesses who have formerly felt in full control of what content Google uses to represent them may be in shock to find that customers are in full control. With Google now retrieving and serving up information from just Google reviews, this further validates the need to continuously build positive reviews. Ideally, they should cover a broad range of consumer experiences with your products or services.

Whether we like it or not, reviews shape our brand reputation and matter. Not just Google, but search engines at large are relying more and more on customer feedback as a trusted source to help match customer search queries.

What is review gating?

“Review gating” is the process of soliciting consumer testimonials or feedback and pointing satisfied customers down one path and selecting others with more negative sentiment towards another path. These services hope to simplify garnering review for businesses and have invested heavily in reaching the healthcare niche, in particular. These review platforms commonly count and score before and after elimination.

“Gating holds almost no benefits. The “positive” path typically leads to relevant review sites including Google, Yelp and TripAdvisor. Those who express negative views are shepherded into some sort of customer service resolution or “make good” process. This approach, though arguably a form of consumer fraud, has been seen as a way to optimize positive online review scores.” – Greg Sterling

Additionally, an study of customer data by GatherUp suggests that review gating provides no or little clear benefits to the business and getting rid of it may drastically improve review counts.

It determined that a research project was needed to answer the question, “Does review gating impact star-ratings?” After studying roughly 10,000 locations that were in their system the year prior to the change of have gating turned on, it ran comparrisons to those same locations after turning gating to “off”. It discovered that “gating had very little impact on the average star-rating but that NOT gating saw a significant increase in review volumes.”

What is an Aggregate Review?

A review aggregator is a system that collects reviews of products, people, services, and other entities. It allows reviewers to provide a rating along with their comments. It is widely recognized that a strong correlation exists between sales, new clients and aggregated scores.

With more healthcare practices seeking to leverage aggregate reviews, it’s essential to manage this means of patient feedback. It is better not to leave it up to unhappy patients, for whatever the reason, to post on public review sites without curating reviews from happy clients or responding. Design feedback into your review collecting process so your patient feel valued and included. When thankful patients don’t leave detailed, helpful reviews, then you are not only losing reviews you deserve, your practice is also losing a potential volume of new patient traffic.

What is a Self-Serving Review?

Google announced September 2019 that it now removes self-serving reviews for LocalBusiness and Organization schema.

“Reviews that can be perceived as “self-serving” aren’t in the best interest of users. We call reviews “self-serving” when a review about entity A is placed on the website of entity A – either directly in their markup or via an embedded 3rd party widget. That’s why, with this change, we’re not going to display review rich results anymore for the schema types LocalBusiness and Organization (and their subtypes) in cases when the entity being reviewed controls the reviews themselves.” – Google

On reddit, Google’s John Muller further defined this by saying, “This is specifically about reviews for your business (as an entity), on your business’s website. It’s not about product reviews”.

All things equal, if you see that one business site seems to have their star rating disappear while they remain another, remember that Google says “We’re slowly rolling out this change”. Give it time.

Your health care business doesn’t have to rely on review software to win those coveted stars in SERPs. If added properly to a related product or service page with review markup, typically they show up. But we see this as being subject to change as Google tests and tweaks what it chooses to present in its immediate search results.

Google may choose to display review stars as a rich snippet if it deciphers that your business has valid reviews or ratings markup on your web pages. However, businesses have to add these reviews on their website correctly in order for them to show up in search engine result pages (SERPs), and there are several strict review guidelines* to follow here:

• Ratings must be sourced directly from users.

• Don’t rely on human editors to create, curate or compile ratings information for local businesses. These types of reviews are critic reviews.

• Sites must collect ratings information directly from users and not from other sites.

How Healthcare Providers Can Gain Online Credibility Via Reviews

1. Be proactive in your Approach to Encouraging Reviews

2. Respond quickly to all reviews

3. Learn the Requirements and Nuances of Review Platforms

4. Closely Manage Your Google Business Listing

5. Adhere to How HIPPA Shapes Your Responses to On-line Negative Patient Reviews

6. Be Transparent About Your Curating Patient Reviews Process

7. Curate Reviews for Each Location

Now we’ll go into more detailed information behind each strategy to gain positive patient reviews.

1. Be proactive in your Approach to Encouraging Reviews

Online reviews are embedded into data libraries of modern search engines. Reputation building requires a long-term, dedicated commitment with a proactive approach. There is a way to use reviews, both negative and positive ones to your advantage. Even if you do everything right, bad reviews happen; but good reviews should command an integral component of your local search marketing plan. Sometimes a negative review may transform into winning a new patient by simply empathizing with their point of view or offering to make things right. Online reviews are part of your business, ignored or embraces. Your medical firm can make the most of them.

In order to successfully manage multiple listings across hundreds of listing directories, healthcare providers often rely on software to help manage their credibility via reviews. In the long-run managing your online review profile can mean more revenue for your healthcare business.

In addition to managing multiple office locations, frequently healthcare systems must also tend the listings for their doctors as well. 54% of millennials search for a doctor online and rely on online physician ratings before visiting a doctor. Individual doctors practicing at a clinic are reviewed and evaluated as often as the healthcare system itself. When you stay on top of your listings it increases the visibility of the your entire healthcare system, and each practitioner within it. As more and more people and search engines look to online reviews to make as a trusted source, it’s essential businesses have a review and reputation building strategy that works.

The article update November 13, 2019 by Jonah Comstock also reports that 54% percent of young millennials (aged 18 to 24) say they search online for health information and rely on online physician ratings before seeing a doctor. Another interesting statistic is that 70 percent of patients between the ages of 18 and 24 select a primary care physician based on recommendations from family and friends, compared to 41 percent of patients age of 65 and older.

Whether reviews and gold stars show up directly related to a specific page is one thing, gaining them so that Google and other search engines select to display them in their SERPs in another matter.

Gaining increased visibility in the Google Local Pack/Finder will help people find your business and star reviews. Ranking factors that influence this Google-owned rich featured snippets in immediate SERPs draws upon Review Signals (Review quantity, review velocity, review diversity, etc.) 15.44% of the time on average, according to Moz. The report titled Local Search Ranking Factors Study 2018 – Local SEO was updated November 4, 2019 and is a compilation of Local marketing experts who endeavor to rank the most important factors that influence Google’s local search algorithm.

2. Respond quickly to all reviews

We’ve found that some sites for healthcare reviews don’t permit doctors to respond to patient reviews. So not only are there time constraints, but this makes it more challenging for doctors to tell their side of the story on such platforms. Which is why we recommend that doctors offer patients a chance to feel heard and welcome feedback in-person. This is the easiest way to prevent the urge for unhappy patients to post negative reviews online. In addition you in-person feedback where you can read tone and body language.

If a person left a Google or Yelp review, doctors can and should actively respond to them as quickly as possible.

“In the past, customers used to be pleased if they received a response to their reviews or social posts within a week, however, that will no longer cut it now that online communication is being perceived as a form of rapid communication. 21% of customers who leave a negative review expect a response within 24 hours, while 46% of customers who leave a comment or review on a business’s social page or post expect a response within just 6 hours,” according to Chatmeter.

If you gain “Silent Patient Reviews”, it’s okay, thought maybe not ideal. They have the right to remain anonymous. This may be the only way that they are comfortable giving you (and others) an honest opinion. It may still offer you an ideal chance to learn new ways to improve your doctor-patient relationships and clinical services.

3. Learn the Requirements and Nuances of Review Platforms

While you work on this end, keeping in mind what it like to run a aggregated review system will help you interface with them better.

Challenges to Maintain the Integrity of Healthcare Reviews

Imagine that you are the owner of one of those third-party review sites. Consider if a business got angry at you for allowing a negative review to be posted and demanded taking it down. A review is meant to be an honest, safe-to-express, unbiased opinion.

Some of these third-party review sites are charged with:

  • Being easily manipulated.
  • Setting up barriers for individuals who want to leave bad reviews while greenlighting positive reviews.
  • Or some review sites are accused of highlighting the negative reviews to cure readership.
  • Or eliminate a review from displaying at all unless that reviewer has a culture of posting a minimum threshold of reviews on their platform.
  • Marking it as a positive review the more input forms you fill out, regardless if each one explains a difficult experience.
  • A reviewer can mistake one company for another if the names are similar. And they are told to sign up for a paid account if a business wishes to have a correction made.

You’ll want to have a comprehensive search marketing strategy that researches and plans for your best execution tactics.

4. Closely Manage Your Google Business ListingMedical patient post 5 star Google review

Your patients need only one simple click to help others find you and boosting your online reputation

The Google Knowledge Graph makes it super easy for anyone to quickly leave a Google Review. It is populated largely from you Google Business Listing and any other entity that Google trusts to source. Because this platform is most often preferred and trusted by users, we focus here first.

Due to the multiple services commonly available from healthcare providers, it’s essential that their listings are filled in completely, accurately, and kept updated. “73% of people lose trust in a business if their listing information is inaccurate”, according to Bright Local. Its Local Citations Trust Report published on March 27, 2018 and authored by Rosie Murphy explores how vital correct citations and reviews are in local business listings and online directories.

In a competitive healthcare world when brand loyalty is depreciating, healthcare providers can’t risk losing patients due to inaccurate listing information or unmanaged reviews. The methodology behind your review management policy and figuring out what, and if it can be done, as well as how to do so correctly will impact your success rate. It will also affect potential patients who re searching for local medical providers.

“Errors mean that consumers are less likely to have faith in the information a business displays online. While directories are the holders of the information, it’s the businesses that will be held accountable if this data isn’t accurate.” – Bright Local

This creates a strong case for a local SEO expert helping to managing your brand reputation, even if you are a pain management and relief specialist; patients can appreciate gentle care and relief from their symptoms.

5. Adhere to How HIPPA Shapes Your Responses to On-line Negative Patient Reviews

You’ll want to always ensure that your practice adheres to HIPAA guidelines by staying HIPAA compliant while responding to patient reviews!

For example, according to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), a dental office and individual dentists are forbidden to confirm that a reviewer is a patient or reveal patient information. HIPPAA is a federal patient privacy law that you should take seriously. The more words you use, the higher the tendency is to unintentionally reveal protected health information (PHI) or come across as self-protecting.

Unlike many professionals who primarily sell eCommerce product or are service providers, businesses in the medical niche and individual healthcare professionals must tread carefully through what may seem like a legal minefield when replying to online reviews. So since it is important to respond – and promptly – what’s a high-level take on how to prepare and train your staff in advance?

Keep review responses:

  • Positive
  • Professional
  • Brief

Another difference is that healthcare services are more likely to have multiple locations, each having listings they need to manage, which can also happen to individual provider within the same location. One clinic or hospital alone might own hundreds of business listings. Consider if you have an emergency dentistry ward, associated technology lab for x-rays or blood work, or include a pharmacy. It can quickly add up and seem like a tangle if each creates an independent Google Business Listing using the same phone number and address. Each locations landing page needs schema enhancements for better performance. We can handle how you list your specialty services whether located at the same or different locations.

Your response can convey gratitude, positivism, and yet be generic in nature to avoid any HIPPA compliance mistakes. Consider something like “Thank you for sharing your experience. Every member of our team contributes to the successes of our patients and their families”. Or, “We invite you to share your experience in more detail? We can be reached at (your email address)”.

6. Be Transparent About Your Process for Curating Patient Reviews

If Google determines that a business or your business is running an illegal review scheme, and they will if that’s true, they are known to remove all of your reviews that are tracked back to the review scheme. Additionally the FTC has a role in regulating online reviews. Review contests are considered a violation of Google’s Terms of Service and FTC review ethics. Taking a slightly different stance from Google (no form of compensation), the FTC instructions state to let both reviewers and anyone who might read the review if you have compensated them in any manner.

“Endorsements must reflect the honest opinions or experiences of the endorser. It’s okay to invite people to post reviews of your business after they’ve actually used your products or services. If you’re offering them something of value in return for these reviews, tell them in advance that they should disclose what they received from you. You should also inform potential reviewers that the discount will be conditioned upon their making the disclosure. That way, other consumers can decide how much stock to put in those reviews.” – Federal Trade Commission

 

When asked, “My company makes a donation to charity anytime someone reviews our product. Do we need to make a disclosure?”, the FTC’s advice follows the same principles of open disclosure and transparency.

“Some people might be inclined to leave a positive review in an effort to earn more money for charity. The overarching principle remains: If readers of the reviews would evaluate them differently knowing that they were motivated in part by charitable donations, there should be a disclosure. Therefore, it might be better to err on the side of caution and disclose that donations are made to charity in exchange for reviews. – Federal Trade Commission

 

Google is the globe’s largest search engine; it is one of the most powerful local business discovery engines on the Web – due to services like Google Maps Ads, Google Assistant and Google Search. Survey data shows that Google holds 57.5 percent of all reviews, which is further proof that optimizing your Google My Business listing is absolutely necessary.

It’s really not that hard once you understand the process and what makes reviews so powerful.

Once you have read and understand Google’s Guidelines for Requesting Reviews, craft a simple invitation. Something like “have you visited my practice recently? Your review is helpful to others in need of medical care”. Or “we value knowing about your experience!” is often sufficient.

What’s important is listening and engaging your patients and showing them you care and want to serve them better. You might be surprised by how many individual respond favorably to a sympathetic ear and friendly request. You may also include reviews in your Google Posts.

Why is this so important? In some scenarios, Google even provides answers to search queries from comments left by a reviewer that provides answers that match search intent.

7. Curate Reviews for Each Location

We recognize that while easy to say, it is most likely the hardest task to achieve. You may feel liked it is exhaustive enough to gain sufficient and varied patient reviews for one much less each and every multi-location you own. To best reach local residents, your business’s individual branches should be generating reviews in order to improve chances at competing in local search.

Today, positive reviews signals come close to being as crucial as link signals have been in local search. If you’re are ignoring reviews, each one of your locations may suffer notably in local search visibility.

Review responses are now more intrinsic to consumers’ trust and willingness to give their loyalty to a business. Multi-location healthcare clinics have the added task of defining a robust review generation, monitoring and response plan that is manageable.

Trusted Healthcare Patient Review PlatformsMost medical searches come from mobile devices

After reading this article, if you decide to use the help of a paid patient review service, check them out carefully in advance and measure their impact. Know that if you ever stop paying them, most often all of your reviews hosted on their site are lost.

While Hill Web Marketing does not endorse any of the following third-party review services, we monitor and research many and find that overall the following are often thought to be more trusted than others.

  • Health Grades
  • RateMDs
  • Vitals
  • Trustpilot
  • G2Crowd
  • BestCompany.com
  • Reviews.io
  • Chatmeter

What we do see as an influencing factor for businesses seeking to encourage a culture of reviews, it is important to have your site well optimized for mobile users. Count on it – they will check you out.

Yelp has a history of banned selective review solicitation. Google’s more recent declared that review gating is now against its guidelines says: “Don’t discourage or prohibit negative reviews or selectively solicit positive reviews from customers.” Faced with heavy spam issues, this approach has come to be classified as a self-interested move to protect the integrity of reviews. A staggering number of fake reviews on many major local consumer review platforms still exists, including Google.

To further assist our readers, we’ll include here additional answers about curating reviews for businesses in the healthcare industry.

Common Questions Asked About Implementing Review Schema

Does my review structured data need to be custom coded?

The skill level and the amount of dedicated time to manage site updates that your staff on hand can play a determining factor. Most find it overwhelming to think about all the schema markup needed across the many pages of your site, much less all the evolving ethics and rules around aggregate review and ratings markup.

If you are serious about your on-line reputation building efforts, we recommend using someone who has lots of experience, is dedicated full time to staying current, and know how to watch for and immediate resolve any spammy review penalties. Delivering templated review structured data to a client or design team member may aid in communication with developers and make work to implement changes – if they know how to continually test and fix improper code. Be sure that you have someone working on your behalf who understands any syntax errors in your code and what updates are needed.

Do you need and how would we add review markup?

Our clients that either have or are thinking of using third-party apps to collect and display reviews often ask lot of great questions about review curation and review markup. This typically includes questions about where it is okay to include these to assure new patients of a favorable history with existing patients. If you site also sells a product, like a book on how to manage head and neck pain, product review markup should always be included. Hill Web Marketing prefers using “reviewBody” for review text as it is a property of Review, versus using the “description” option provided by schema.org as a property of Thing.

Is JSON-LD review structured data better than the microdata format?

While compiling recommendations for structured data for a client, many questions came up. After sorting through endless articles on schema markup for reviews, we prefer JSON-LD is much more flexible and scalable when compared to microdata. We have a built-in culture of always confirming whether Google sees the markup on a page or not, and if any errors or warning exist. It is important to know how to weigh missing or recommended “warnings” or required values as part of the review structured data type.

Could I really loose my reviews if I don’t get it right?

By Google’s standards you cannot offer a reviewer any type of discount or monetary reward in exchange for reviews. One business we’re aware of offered all of their customers the chance to enter a drawing for costly event tickets. In the end, Google quietly deleted years of accrued reviews. Local SEO forums also reported that a business thanked everyone with a free beverage after leaving a review. Google deleted more than 400 reviews that were shoring up their business. Those reviewers still could cash in their Starbucks gift card, but the business lost its Google reviews.

Reviews are only valuable to other individuals when they are honest and unbiased. Even if well-intentioned, a conflict of interest from an employee or family member who leaves a review can undermine the trust others give it.

Can Someone Else Edit My Business Listing?

Reviews have the power to override the business information that you sent ti Google. For instance, let’s say you stop short of adding your business hours to your GBL. If a trusted Yelp or Yext reviewer suggests an edit that your business is closed on Christmas and New Years, then chances are that Google will use that information and update your hours.

Online Reputation Building to Repair Negative Search Results

Sometimes a patient’s health plans have poor insurance coverage. The stresses from worrying about healthcare costs can spill over into emotions that seem to trigger a negative experience at your medical care facility. By providing the best care, offering a positive experience regardless of a patient’s pain and worry level, and inviting their customer experience feedback, you will have done your best.

Know that you can repair negative search results. But it is work. We’ve covered just how in this article.

Few topics spur more attention today in healthcare than the patient experience (PX). Whether in the context of health plan management, value-based care, or the breadth of healthcare consumerism, improving PX is a driving force behind many medical technology investments and innovation in patient review software programs.

Healthcare consumers are seeking to take charge of their healthcare options and decisions like never before. And that means they are more educated, research on line more, and come up with their own opinions. These weighed-out opinions show up in online reviews and in social media postings where patients talk about everything from price transparency, a doctor’s mannerism, and care quality to the facilities, ease of parking, friendliness of their care providers, and anything else that think to express.

The rise of social media, more review platforms, and how search engines favor showing review content more has created both opportunity and challenges for healthcare providers. That challenge is how to manage your online reputation. Adding them to relevant pages is providing site visitors with content they value.

Healthcare, mired under regulations and bureaucracy, is faced with a wake-up call as enlightened consumers start to demand proof of positive testimonials. They are checking online, even if you are not aware of it. Similar to the user experience they have with online retailers and other business types, they want assurances when choosing a healthcare provider.

CONCLUSION

So we have patients looking for guidance from online reviews when healthcare shopping, medical center business owners struggling to manage reviews, and the competition trying to garner smarter review management and patients willing to post them. All this while the FTC and Google introduce new well-intentioned review guidelines and rules. This is a powerful group of players who have all the right incentives in place to take action and protect the free-will of the reviewer who can guide others.

Signals confirm that Google is taking what your patient’s say about your healthcare practice far more seriously than what you say about it yourself. We all want personal incentives to put only our best side forward. Consumers listen to family, friends, and other consumers. Be proactive in influencing and directing the conversations about your practice as much as you would your overall brand.

Growing your practice requires a proactive approach to to earning consumer trust. We evaluate our strategy monthly and offer SEO, SEM, social media management, market research, web design, and both lead and review generation.

Call 651-206-2410 and start with our Market Research for Patient Review Opportunities

 

 

* https://developers.google.com/search/docs/data-types/reviews#review-snippets

** https://developers.google.com/search/docs/data-types/reviews#critic-reviews