Episode 24

How to Get More Patient Reviews

If you want to get more patient reviews for your practice, you need to have a robust system for collecting feedback and turning positive patient experiences into glowing online reviews. This week on the Medical Marketing Podcast, we’ll show you how to do just that.

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Episode Transcript: How to Get More Patient Reviews

If you want to get more patient reviews for your practice, you need to have a robust system for collecting feedback and turning positive patient experiences into glowing online reviews. This week on the Medical Marketing Podcast, we’ll show you how to do just that. 

Hello everybody, and welcome to the Medical Marketing Podcast from Messenger – the show where we give physicians and practice marketing managers like you actionable tips and advice to help improve your marketing, grow your revenue, and take patient experience to the next level.

I’m your host, Crawford Ifland, and today we’re going to be talking about how to get more patient reviews on sites like Google, Facebook, Healthgrades, and more. So if you’re ready to beat your competitors and improve your online reputation, let’s jump in.

Recap: Why Are Reviews So Important?

Before we begin, let’s revisit last week’s episode and recap why patient reviews are so important in the first place. 

As we saw last week…

  • Reviews are a powerful tool for driving patient acquisition: 66% percent of patients treat reviews as influential when searching for a new physician.
  • Reviews are incredibly important because nearly everyone uses them and trusts them. 8 out of 10 patients start their search for a doctor by going to Google and reading reviews. 9 out of 10 Millennials trust online reviews as much as they would trust a personal recommendation from a friend or family member. If there’s an easy way to enhance your online reputation, it’s to work on improving your review profile.
  • Reviews literally change our brains, thanks to a psychological concept called social proof. Social proof is when we look to the behavior of others to dictate our own behavior. If we’re unsure about a decision we’re about to make, we look to others for their guidance. If other patients have had a great experience at a practice and are writing about it online, we assume that’s the norm, and that we’ll have a good experience, too. This “social proof” is an important psychological concept that can influence decision-making, so you want it to work in your favor.
  • Finally, reviews are great for SEO. The better your review profile, the more likely your practice is to appear high in Google’s Map Pack, and the more appealing your search results will be. This will boost your click-through rates and lead to more traffic on your website.

So that’s a little bit about why reviews are so important. But the question remains: how can you get more patient reviews for your practice?

Why You Should Ask for Reviews

For most doctors, the hardest part about getting more reviews online is simply asking their patients to write a review. And yet, this is the most powerful thing you can do for your online reputation as a physician – and it’s incredibly simple.

There are lots of strategies to get more patient reviews, but the easiest is to just ask your patients to write a review.

Research by BrightLocal suggests that 7 out of 10 people would leave feedback or write an online review for a business…if only the business would ask!

The reason? A psychological concept called reciprocity. 

In his book Influence, psychologist Robert Cialdini calls reciprocity the first “Principle of Persuasion” – and it’s incredibly powerful.

Reciprocity works because humans are hard-wired to return favors and pay back debts. We hate to feel indebted to others, so if someone has done something for us, we feel obligated to do something in return for them.

As a doctor, this can translate into more reviews very easily.

Once you’ve taken the time to provide an immense amount of value to your patient, you ask for a small favor in return. You’ve taken your time, invested in them, and have delivered an exceptional experience, and they recognize that you’ve gone above and beyond…so they oblige, take a few minutes out of their day, and write a review of their experience. 

It’s just that simple. 

Still, many physicians are hesitant to ask patients for reviews. They think that patients won’t respond, or that they might write a bad review and hurt their reputation.

And while both of these are possible outcomes, the vast majority of patients are happy to take a minute or two and write a review about their experience – especially if you ask in the right way. 

How to ask in the right way? That’s what we’ll explore next.

How to Ask Patients for Reviews

There are tons of strategies to ask patients for reviews. The particular strategy or strategies your practice uses depend on your patient demographics, your marketing channels, and the workload of your office staff, so feel free to pick and choose which strategies you feel will work best for you.

Here are some of our favorite ways to ask patients for reviews:

Automated Emails

Emailing a patient a few days after their visit can be an effective way to get new reviews. The key here is personalization. Make sure each email is personalized with the patient’s name, and if you can, try to send it from an email address belonging to the doctor they saw – anything that seems too automated may be a turn-off. 

70 percent of reviews come from post-transaction emails, so there’s proof that strategy can be incredibly effective.

Also, be sure to only send the email once a patient is completely done with their experience at your practice. If they need any follow-up appointments or ongoing treatment, you don’t want to ask for a review prematurely.

Text Messages

SMS messages are another effective way to get more patient reviews. Pew Research Center has reported that 77% of Americans own smartphones, and 82% of smartphone owners read every single text message they receive, so this can be a great way to ensure that patients are getting your messages. 

Just keep in mind that SMS messages are not HIPAA-compliant, so be sure to not share any health-related information in this format – only a simple request for a review should be sent via text.

In-Office

More and more providers are choosing to ask patients for reviews immediately after their visit, while it’s still fresh in their minds. Some practices have a dedicated iPad or desktop in their front office where patients can easily leave a review, while others ask patients to take a minute or two and write a review on their phone.

This strategy isn’t right for everyone – for some doctors, it can feel too aggressive. It all depends on your goals and how you interact with patients. However, if you ask nicely and don’t force it, having patients write a review while they’re still in your office can quickly boost the number of reviews you have online. 

Printed Take-Home Materials

If patients receive any supplementary materials that they take home after an office visit, consider slipping a business card into the mix with a link to write a review. Even better, print a QR code on the business card that will take patients directly to a page where they can write a review on Google, Facebook, or another platform.

The built-in cameras in many smartphones (including all iPhones) have the ability to scan a QR code to open up a webpage, so this is a really quick and convenient way for patients to write a review without having to search or type in a long URL.

If you want to see this in action, we’ll have a QR code where you can write a review for this podcast in the show notes:

Leave a Review for The Medical Marketing Podcast on Apple Podcasts

Scan the QR code above with your smartphone to leave a review for the Medical Marketing Podcast on Apple Podcasts.

Promotional Items

Some practices give away promotional items, such as mugs, t-shirts, or pens. Including a QR code or link to write a review with these items can be a good strategy for getting more reviews. 

It may not be as high-converting as asking patients to write a review in your office or sending a text message, but it’s a cheap and effective way to get new reviews from time to time. 

A Link on Your Website

Regardless of which other strategies you use to get more reviews online, every practice should place a link to write a review on their website. Many physicians create a page on their website with a list of all their review profiles, while others simply place an external link to a review profile, like Google or Facebook.

No matter which method you choose, giving patients a way to easily leave a review is bound to be a boon for your practice – there’s no reason not to do it.

A Good, Old-Fashioned Phone Call

It might be low-tech, but that doesn’t mean it’s not effective: calling patients to ask for a review can be an incredibly effective way of getting valuable feedback.

Of course, this takes more time and effort on the part of your office staff than sending automated emails or handing out business cards, so it may not make sense for every practice. However, the human connection can go a long way, so it’s worth considering.

Postcards

Sending postcards to thank patients for their visit and asking for a quick review can be quite effective as well. 

Like phone calls, this strategy takes time – and postage isn’t free, after all – so this may not make sense for every practice. However, like phone calls, it does have a human element to it, and patients appreciate practices who go above and beyond to add a human touch into the patient experience. 

Social Media

Social media can also be a good way to get more reviews for your practice. This strategy is a little more impersonal, as you can’t identify specific patients who you know have visited your practice.

However, you never know who will see your post, so it’s valuable to post or tweet a link to a review profile every once in a while.

Review Generation Software

Finally, there’s the option of using review generation software to automate the entire process. This is definitely the most powerful and comprehensive strategy to get more patient reviews: review generation software can often automatically email and text patients asking for a review, direct them to the right review channels, and post their feedback on your social media channels to spread the word. Some platforms can even aggregate all your reviews in one place and help you manage your profiles from one convenient place. 

These software platforms are very powerful, but they can become quite expensive and might be overkill for some practices, so it’s worth doing a bit more research to figure out if review generation software is right for you. 

Next up, we’ll look at some do’s, don’ts, and best practices for asking for reviews.

Asking Patients for Reviews: Do’s and Don’ts

As with any marketing strategy, there’s always a list of best practices to adhere to, as well as some do’s and don’ts.

Ensure HIPAA Compliance

It should go without saying, but don’t include any personally-identifying information in review requests, including the reason for a patient’s visit, their outcome, or anything like that. 

Just ask patients for a review of their experience – nothing more.

This is especially important if you’re communicating through non-HIPAA-compliant channels, such as text messages.The goal is to create positive publicity about your practice, not to incur an extra liability…so keep protected health information out of it.

Time Requests Appropriately

We hinted at this one before, but don’t ask patients for a review if they haven’t finished their experience at your practice yet! 

Ensure that patients are completely finished with their treatment and don’t need any follow-up appointments before you ask for a review. If you ask too soon, you aren’t likely to get a response – or worse, they might write a bad review.

Respond to Existing Reviews Appropriately

Every now and then, you’re bound to have a patient who writes a negative review online – it happens to all of us. 

Many practices are scared to respond to negative reviews, thinking it will elevate the patient’s complaints and attract negative exposure. We prefer to think of negative reviews as an opportunity to show new patients just how much you care.

Research suggests that when patients leave reviews, they expect a response to their feedback, regardless of whether it was positive or negative. Unfortunately, two-thirds of consumers never get a response. That’s a lost opportunity. 

Go above and beyond to ensure that the patient is heard and that their concerns or complaints are addressed. Prospective patients want to see providers that care, so acknowledging that you failed in some way and are taking steps to address it will go a long way.

I know a surgeon who personally calls patients who have left a negative review for his practice online. He doesn’t farm this task out to one of his office staff – he personally picks up the phone. 9 times out of 10, he says it’s a simple misunderstanding or miscommunication that can be cleared up with a short conversation. 

And even when it isn’t, patients feel more understood. They appreciate the effort that he put in, the compassion and empathy that he showed. He said that he’s even had several patients go back and alter their review, changing it from one star to five.

That’s a quick practice that turns naysayers into ambassadors for your brand and delivers incredible ROI – it only takes a 5 minute conversation on the phone to turn a detractor into an advocate. So when patients are upset, summon the courage to face their criticisms head-on – it will pay off big-time.

Know When to Stop

This one is simple: once a patient has written a review for your practice, stop contacting them!

Some automated systems don’t do this well – they keep spamming patients with review requests, frustrating them and causing a positive experience to turn into a negative one. 

Conversely, realize that you won’t be able to reach every patient. Eventually, you’ll have to stop asking and acknowledge that not everybody is going to write a review. In the long run, it’s more important to preserve a positive patient experience than it is to get every single patient to write about it…so know when to stop.

Don’t Pay For or Incentivize Reviews

We’ve saved the most important for last: never, ever pay for or otherwise incentivize patients to write a review. Not only is it a tacky practice, but it’s in direct violation with the policies of nearly every online review platform, including Google, Facebook, Yelp, Healthgrades, and others. 

So ask your patients for reviews – but if they choose not to write one, let it go and ask the next patient. If you want to stay in compliance, don’t ever offer something in return. 

If you follow these strategies and best practices, you should be on your way to more patient reviews in no time.

Next Week…

Well, that’s all for this week’s episode of the Medical Marketing Podcast – everything you ever needed to know about getting more patient reviews.

You can subscribe to The Medical Marketing Podcast for free on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. And if you like the show, let us know by writing a review on Apple Podcasts – we’ll have a link in the show notes.

And whether you’re new to the show or have been listening for a long time, check out our website at www.messenger.md. We’re always sharing helpful resources and know-how to help you improve your practice marketing, grow revenue, and take your patient experience to the next level.

That’s all for today’s episode – I’m Crawford Ifland. See you next week.

Crawford Ifland, CEO at Messenger Healthcare Marketing

Crawford Ifland is the CEO of Messenger Healthcare Marketing. Messenger is a digital marketing agency specializing in custom healthcare website design, healthcare SEO, promotional videos, and more. Messenger gives the nation’s leading physicians and healthcare organizations the tools they need to grow their organizations.

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