AAOE Members Share: Online Reputation Management Strategies
Friday, September 16, 2016
Posted by: Alyssa DelPrete, AAOE Communications
When searching for nearly any product or service, one of the first things you may do is scroll through the online reviews. This includes a wide range of decisions—anything from selecting an apartment complex to move into or finding a highly rated car mechanic when your car breaks down, to choosing a restaurant for dinner or searching for the next book to read.
With the growing influence online reviews have today on our decisions, online reputation management (ORM) is essential for orthopaedic practices.
The Components of Online Reputation Management
Online reviews on a physician can be found on a number of different websites and platforms. These include channels managed by a practice, such as the practice’s social media and website, but they also include external review websites like Healthgrades and even Yelp. Because of this, developing strategies for managing your practice’s online reputation is essential. You need to know what is being said about your physicians and have a plan for monitoring and addressing this feedback. Some AAOE members who have implemented ORM strategies within their practices have offered their insight and advice.
“To me, online reputation management is the focused attempt to not only understand and realize negative statements about your practice or organization, but also appreciate the positive statements or comments to see where you’re doing really well,” shares Michael Whittaker, CMPE, LBBH, Chief Executive Officer at Associated Orthopaedics of Kingsport.
He explains that online feedback is more likely to be authentic, given many patients’ hesitance to share these feelings face-to-face. For this reason, he says, “Online reputation management really serves to allow each organization to understand their strengths and weaknesses.”
Another important factor affecting ORM are physician profiles and online reviews.
“This is how people find physicians today,” says Dennis Viellieu, CPA, CMPE, Chief Executive Officer at Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush. “You listen to what your friends and peers say.”
Alexander Sroka, Marketing and Social Media Coordinator at Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush, shares similar insight. “It’s becoming more of a consumer shopping when it comes to how people are selecting physicians. People are going online to do research before making a purchase … Better ranked physicians are, ultimately, leading to conversions.”
Whittaker sees ORM as a prime marketing opportunity, describing it as a “key marketing component for us and a way to develop competitive advantage over others.”
Online Reputation Management Strategies
In order to effectively manage your practice’s online reputation, having a plan in place is essential. A good place to start is designating a person to monitor and respond to online reviews.
Sroka describes how ORM is part of his role at Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush. “Part of my role here [at Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush] is to monitor, update, and maintain all of the profiles for physicians on multiple sites and work with our patient experience person internally. Each specific review or comment I share with him and then appropriately respond,” he says.
Whittaker shares a similar ORM strategy Associated Orthopaedics executes to ensure they stay on top of online reviews.
“One of the things we’ve developed is an online reputation management checklist,” Whittaker says. This includes monitoring Associated Orthopaedics’ social media platforms, as well as keeping an eye on feedback that is left on their website or external websites.
Whittaker stresses the importance of not only responding online to reviews and feedback, but also driving the conversation offline. Online responses allow other users to see that a response was given, while offline conversations allow more progress to occur in resolving the issue.
“We reach out to patients on the online platform as well as in person to alleviate their concerns and understand what their displeasure was,” says Whittaker. “Most people are welcoming to our attempts to reach out to them.”
While any ORM plan should incorporate strategies for monitoring and addressing online feedback, Whittaker (who worked for an academic system in California before coming to Associated Orthopaedics of Kingsport), notes that your ORM plan should be specific to your market. Strategies that are successful in one part of the country may not perfectly translate in another.
“My advice would be to understand market penetration and how things affect the market,” he explains.
For instance, in California, he saw that negative comments had less of an impact. However, he says, “Here in this particular region [Kingsport, Tennessee] and similar regions, word of mouth is the premium. If someone writes something negative on a Facebook page, that spreads like wildfire around here.”
Additionally, Sroka explains the importance of being proactive in soliciting patient reviews. Many individuals who are compelled to leave online feedback are those who had a negative experience—and when a physician’s only review is a bad one, that can have a major impact. One way to combat this is to develop strategies to receive patient feedback.
Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush does this through rating cards they give their physicians to distribute to patients. The cards are specific to the physician handing them out, and they include simple instructions on how patients can leave reviews on the care they received.
“The goal is to get the happy patients to positively review the physicians,” Sroka says. “It’s driving positive patients to these websites so physician profiles accurately reflect the care they’ve given.”
Overcoming Challenges with Online Reputation Management
Addressing comments from patients who had a negative experience should be handled carefully. Viellieu explains how important it is to control the emotion around the issue. He cautions against physicians responding directly to negative comments.
“It’s good when you have an organization where you have someone who’s not as emotionally involved to respond to [the negative comments],” he advises. “It’s hard to be objective when it’s criticism about yourself.”
Individuals responsible for handling such feedback should also take the time to sift through the comments and determine which ones require a deeper focus.
“A common challenge that we encounter is trying to disseminate between patients who are upset over something minimal, versus multiple comments and statements and understanding that it’s a systemic problem,” Whittaker explains.
To deal with this issue, Associated Orthopaedics has their marketing professionals identify both positive and negative reviews when monitoring their online platforms and assign a score to them. These are then brought to the attention of department managers during each weekly meeting.
“Make sure you have good processes in place to address those issues, whether positive or negative,” Whittaker advises. By doing this, he says, “you have actual action taking place.”
Sroka discusses the overarching challenge of managing negative online reviews. “While you’re able to report or flag inappropriate or slanderous comments, at the end of the day, you don’t have full control over what people say. It’s learning to manage that and be as transparent as possible in the process.”
Despite the challenges, Whittaker and Sroka both express how vital online reputation management is to a practice’s success.
“It’s the reality of the way medicine is changing and how patients find us,” Sroka says.
Whittaker shares a similar sentiment. “It’s only going to become more and more impactful as regulation changes, technology changes, and social media is normalized … People who have a good understanding of that will be well ahead of the competition.”