Doctors often overlook patient rating and review websites simply because they take time. What they do not realize is that dedicating 5 to 10 minutes per day to such sites is a massive avenue for retaining existing patients and for attracting potential ones.

In 2013, a survey by the healthcare technology company Digital Assent revealed that 72% of the respondents were of the view that negative reviews would put them off visiting the particular practitioner.

This survey, like numerous others, highlights the need for paying more attention to online reviews and ratings in order to maintain and enhance your patient reach and client base. This article uses suggestions from several industry experts to devise a simple six-step process to help you become an online success and for you to attract new patients.

1. Claiming your listings

Virtually every new patient comes across review and rating websites when searching for a practice or physician online. As a physician, you need to first identify the first few sites on which your practice is listed by simply searching for your practice’s name on Google.  Next, individually click on each of these listings and look for a link that allows you to log in and “claim” the profile. After entering basic information, you are able to verify your identity.

2. Marketing your profile

Once you have claimed your listing, you are able to correct and update information such as your practice’s phone numbers and postal address. This is extremely important as these sites are commonly used by new patients to find out a practice’s contact details. You can also enter a brief description and a few pictures of your practice to give you an edge over your competitors.

Furthermore, claiming your listing allows the site to automatically send you e-mail notifications whenever a new comment or review regarding your practice is posted on the site. Using this, you can easily monitor patient comments regarding your practice.

3. Communicating

Both existing and potential patients will see that you truly care about their views by responding to the former’s reviews. While the dos and don’ts of negative reviews are somewhat tricky and mentioned below in detail, positive reviews should be responded to promptly and cordially. Some doctors also hire businesses that specialize in providing reputation management services for handling online activities but following these techniques can help you avoid that extra cost.

4. Expect the unexpected

While doing all you can to boost positive reviews, try to discourage the negative ones to the maximum. Comment cards and brief e-mail questionnaires after every visit can decrease the amount of negative reviews posted online. Patient portals in EHR software also allow for greater interaction with patients and have the provision to transfer lab reports, tests etc. This keeps the patients happy and patients often resort to these mediums instead for any queries or problems.

When faced with negative reviews, step one is to never panic. Additionally, try not to confirm that the reviewer is your patient and when responding to a review, never reveal the reviewer’s personal information. Moreover, derogatory, offensive or off topic reviews should never be responded to, and should additionally be forwarded to the rating site for immediate removal.

5. Getting clients to comment

Next, build up on this online presence and by asking satisfied patients to provide feedback on these forums. It takes only a few minutes to comment and review, so many of your patients might do so. Moreover, more positive reviews about your practice substantially increase the likelihood of potential patients seeing these, and consequently visiting your practice.

Getting patients to comment can be done via simple strategies such sending your patients e-mails asking them to provide online reviews after every visit. Electronic Health Record (EHR) software are becoming increasingly popular to automatically post reminders, alerts and even birthday greetings to patients via e-mail. In addition to being extremely convenient, this is a great way to create goodwill.

6. Other web sources

While review and rating websites are immensely important for the promotion of your practice, it is never wise to direct all your efforts towards this one medium. A website with your information and a few pictures of your practice in addition to presence on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter will considerably enhance your client base. Several doctors also use patient portals on EHR systems as substitutes for websites. Additionally, social media pages are generally free and have millions of daily users, of whom a significant portion could become new clients.