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Physician Search, Directories, and Online Ratings: Optimizing Your Health Care Organization's Presence

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Online search, online physician directories, and online reviews have become a vital part of patients’ health care decisions. Some 82% of patients use online provider reviews to evaluate physicians, according to a study by Software Advice — up from just 25% who did so in 2013. In fact, nearly three-quarters (72%) of patients say online reviews are their
first step when seeking a new doctor.

Favorable reviews have a huge influence over patients' choice of health care provider. Almost half (48%) of patients in the survey would be willing to go outside their insurance network for a provider with positive reviews.

The ascendancy of third-party physician directory and review sites requires a new approach to health care marketing. Your locations and providers may rank high in traditional measures such as CAHPS patient satisfaction scores, but not so high on online review sites. Unfortunately, more patients trust third-party physician review sites than trust health system comment websites (57% versus 47%), according to a report in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

Given the strong influence third-party online physician directories, ratings and reviews wield, how can your organization make the most of this trend?

Take charge of your organization’s online reputation

Creating your own online provider reviews for your health care organization helps you control the message potential patients receive, while also obtaining valuable feedback. But this is only part of reputation management. You also need a strategy that makes third-party physician directories and online reviews part of your marketing plan.

Step 1: Create a strong local search presence. When patients search for health care providers, they generally search within a certain geographic radius, such as their city or "near me." They start with the closest providers in the search engine results and then review their star ratings to make a decision. To ensure your locations and providers show up
in search results:·        

- Claim your listings in local search directories and optimize them using relevant keywords, including location-based keywords.

- Maintain consistency across listings in different directories. This improves your position in search engine results and helps to brand your locations and providers as part of your system.

- Regularly update listings for accuracy.

Step 2: Take ownership of your online reputation. Here’s how to use online reviews to your advantage.

- Create a review section on the websites of your organization’s locations. Website design solutions that automatically post reviews to your websites make this easier.

- Encourage patients to write reviews. You can’t offer incentives in return for patient reviews, but you can use signage, icons and links on your website, and verbal reminders ("We'd love to hear what you think about our office; you can review us on [site].”)

Step 3:  Monitor and respond to online reviews. Online reviews provide valuable patient feedback to improve your locations’ patient satisfaction.

-  Look for health care marketing solutions that provide real-time review monitoring.

- In addition to your own and third-party online review sites, monitor what patients say about your organization on social media.

- Have a system-wide plan for responding to negative reviews. For a consistent approach across all of your locations, distribute approved language locations can use to respond to patients online and to take the discussion off-line, as HIPAA and patient privacy standards require.

Reputation management matters

Your health care organization’s reputation is too important to leave to chance. Today, reputation management matters more than ever in attracting and retaining patients. Working with a partner experienced in the special reputation management and marketing needs of health care organizations, such as Web.com for Enterprise, can help you take charge of your reputation for better results.