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Controlling Patient Reviews: How to Earn Positive Reviews on Physician Rating Sites

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Positive reviews on physician rating sites can be the lifeblood of a medical practice. Likewise, negative reviews can have the opposite effect. In our web consultancy, we are constantly asked about how to manage both negative and positive reviews. Here, we’ll outline some of the advanced tips and ideas we’ve learned.

Reviews are important for doctors because of what we call the “HVAC-Cardiologist Continuum.” There is a sales cycle to all purchases, medical or otherwise. HVAC repair companies enjoy a short sales cycle: people generally don’t care who shows up to fix their air conditioner when it’s 102 degrees outside, they’ll hire anyone who answers the phone and can get there quickly. Conversely, a patient seeking a balloon angioplasty will research doctors aggressively before making a decision of who is right for them. So, in the medical arena review management is not only important, it’s vital.

Fighting Negative Reviews

Unfortunately, fighting negative reviews is a losing battle. Physicians that sue their patients for negative reviews usually wind up right where they don’t want to be: getting ridiculed on popular blogs and social media sites. The gentler approach, to attempt to remove negative reviews from physician rating sites will meet with lukewarm success. We’ve successfully removed reviews from Citysearch, Realself, and other smaller review sites, but you will never remove a negative review from Yelp or Google Maps/Google Places without contacting the reviewer personally.

The Best Approach: Build Up Positive Reviews

Rather than fight negative reviews, physicians should work to build up their positive reviews. We’ve learned a few tricks along the way.

Most rating sites show recent reviews first. So, a positive review appears more prominently than a prior negative review.

Simply asking patients to leave positive reviews is not going to work 100% (or even 10%) of the time. Your patients are busy and most will simply not take the time to leave a review. Even if they are inclined to review, sites like Yelp and Google Places require customers to sign up to leave reviews; some patients get befuddled and simply abandon the task.

Physicians need to kick it up a notch to get positive reviews. A sure way to get patients interested in leaving reviews is to offer a giveaway. When they leave the office, prepare for them a colored postcard that says “Liked Your Treatment? Leave us a review on Google Maps and we’ll take $20 off your next bill.” You need to give your patients clear instructions of where to find the page you want them to review, and give them a link to follow to find the page. This approach not only gets you the review, but gets the patient back for another visit.

A variant of this technique is a product or sample giveaway. We have an Orthodontist client that enjoyed a wonderfully successful review campaign that involved the giveaway of a basic model Sonicaire toothbrush. This client garnered 12 positive reviews in a very short time and the percentage of patients who actually took the time to complete reviews went way up.

A Bad Approach: Letting Staff Post Fake Positive Reviews

Occasionally, we’ll get introduced to a client and inherit the following mess: the Client has instructed his or her staff to post fake positive reviews, which is worse than unwise. What you are likely to wind up with is overtly obvious reviews that read unnaturally and posted in a group within a 2-day period. Yelp employs a filter to weed out these false positives, but even if they didn’t, the public is wise to these tricks.

Also, there’s a technical reason you should never undertake any review posting from any computer at your office: every Internet-connected computer operates from a designated “Internet Protocol” (IP) address (eg., 192.168.100.100). Google and Yelp (and every other physician rating site) record the IP address for every submission. When your staff posts reviews from your office, they are all posting from the same IP address (a red flag), and if you’ve got a listing you created in Google Places or Yelp, you are sharing the IP address as the reviews (another red flag).

A similarly transparent approach is the use of paid positive review services–it still amazes me that these services survive. These services offer little–the quality of the reviews is generally poor and plainly obvious.

Advanced Techniques

Under very strict circumstances, we undertake the posting of patient-authorized reviews under anonymous accounts we create, though the approach is very technical. Here’s how it works: We have a doctor client that collects a written patient satisfaction survey from every exiting patient. The form asks, “Please tell us what we’re doing right.” This question will generally garner a useful review. The form has a check box above the signature line that asks “May we use your comments online for marketing and education?” Patients who opt in therefore give the physician permission to publish their statements publicly (albeit anonymously).

Armed with our client’s patient-approved reviews, we publish the reviews to “problem spots”–sites where negative reviews are present. To give added strength to the reviews (“stronger” reviews tend to evade rating sites’ filters) we employ aged, active review accounts. In addition, we never post from the same IP address, we use Internet proxies to obscure our actual IP address. Finally, these reviews are posted periodically, never within the same week.

Michael David is a web marketing specialist and the author of “WordPress 3.0 Search Engine Optimization”, his blog can be found at DermSEO.com.

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About the Author

Michael David is a web marketer to Doctors and Lawyers and is the author of WordPress 3 Search Engine Optimization on Packt Publishing, available at bookstores everywhere.

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