Choosing a new doctor can be a daunting experience for many people. Health is arguably the most important thing we have in life and most of us want to be as sure as possible about a new healthcare provider.
When people require treatment the first place they’re likely to turn to is a Google search. Here they’re going to find a mix of practice pages, personal sites, and doctor reviews. Details found here will help people form a clearer picture of your services and fuel their final decision.
In fact, when choosing a healthcare provider, 69.9% of people consider an online positive reputation to be very or strongly important. For that reason, doctors and other healthcare providers rely on online reviews to bring in new patients.
Here we’ll be sharing why doctor reviews are important, how to choose the right review sites to focus on, how to ask and reply to reviews as well as how to market them.
Why do reviews matter for doctors?
It goes without saying that people take their health seriously. When someone has an important decision to make about their health whether that be a treatment plan or an operation, they’re unlikely to want to choose a completely unknown specialist.
In the past, people may have turned to family members for advice and recommendations. People would have asked around to see if anyone they know has experienced the same kind of health issue and if they had any personal recommendations.
Now, most people go straight to online reviews––in fact, 74.6% of people have looked online to find out about a doctor, a dentist, or medical care.
Online reviews help you build trust and show potential patients why they should choose you over alternative options.
1. Social proof for healthcare providers
These days people are comfortable doing their own research and relying on other people’s experiences to help them make a decision. Seeing lots of positive reviews taps into the psychology of social proof.
People feel more comfortable choosing a healthcare provider that’s got a good track record and has been approved by other people with similar needs.
When a potential patient reads positive and detailed reviews that look authentic, they’re more likely to feel comfortable choosing your services over another provider with fewer or negative reviews.
Overall, 59% of respondents stated that online reviews from other patients contribute to their decision when choosing a doctor, dentist, or other healthcare providers.
For example, following a sports accident, Joe requires complex knee surgery and is unsure of where to begin looking for a capable surgeon. His family doctor has recommended a few names, but he’d like to find out more about them from the patients’ perspectives. He’d also like to do some of his own research.
As Joe taps into Google “best knee surgeons in Seattle,” the first results below paid ads are Google reviews:
Followed by other 3rd-party review sites:
After seeing these results, Joe reads through several reviews and looks at some personal websites and surgeon profiles.
First, he reads this review:
And then this review:
Both reviews are detailed and provide Joe with the key pieces of information he’s looking for. He’s able to see that the surgeons have high satisfaction rates both in terms of explaining treatment options and recovery rates.
Reviews like this will likely help Joe form a shortlist of which surgeons to contact.
2. Reviews aid patient research
As well as helpful social proof, potential patients also use doctor reviews to find out more specific details about healthcare providers and their services. Detailed reviews can help answer common patient questions.
For instance, potential patients may want to find out about:
- Quality of doctor communication
- Reception friendliness
- Hygiene levels – particularly COVID-19 protocols
- Level of care quality
- Accepted insurance providers
Past patient reviews can be an invaluable and quick way for future patients to find out important details about your service.
3. Boost your SERP rankings
Online reviews also come with the SEO benefit of boosting your appearance in the SERPs. When users mention your name or healthcare practice, search engines notice and take it into account when ranking sites.
Lots of positive reviews with keyword mentions of your services will help you boost your ranking.
In fact, review signals are so influential that Whitespark considers them to be the 2nd most important local ranking factor.
Which sites are best for online doctor reviews?
Having a presence across multiple review sites will help you the most when it comes to boosting your reputation and online presence. However, some online review sites are more influential than others.
Studies show that consumers are most likely to look for reviews on healthcare providers on Google (48.8%), and WebMD (32.8%).
But, it’s still worth paying attention to other more specific review sites to ensure you have a presence across multiple sites.
People who choose to dig deeper may compare reviews across multiple sites.
Doctors should be aware of three main categories of review site:
1. 3rd-party mainstream sites
Google, Yelp, and Facebook are the top 3rd-party sites for online doctor reviews. Since Google is the world’s leading search engine, it’s the most important site for winning online reviews for yourself and your healthcare practice.
Given Yelp’s usual appearance near the top of location-specific searches, it’s also worth paying attention to.
Finally, Facebook reviews are also useful as users can then share their reviews with their friends and followers, giving you another avenue for boosting your reputation and online presence.
2. Industry-specific sites
Potential patients who want to dig deeper than standard 3rd-party review sites may look at healthcare-specific review sites.
These sites enable users to search for highly-rated doctors in their area, known for treating specific conditions.
Here are some of the most popular sites for specialist doctor reviews:
- WebMD – Patients can search for doctors based on their location. It’s also easy to browse by specialty, condition, and procedure.
- Healthgrades – With over 10 million patient ratings, Healthgrades claims to have profiles for every doctor in America. Again, it’s easy to read reviews based on location, procedures, and conditions. The site also enables users to schedule an appointment with their chosen doctor online.
- Zocdoc – Doctors can easily register their practice on Zocdoc and begin to receive reviews and ratings from past and current patients. Users can also browse providers who take their insurance and book appointments through the platform.
- Vitals – Claiming to be the largest online database of patient reviews, Vitals displays top-rated medical professionals within the searcher’s area. Patients can also browse doctors based on their specialty, their city, and their insurance plan.
3. 1st-party reviews on the healthcare provider’s website
Patients who are close to making a decision about their chosen medical professional may search for a personal or health provider web page. Here, they’ll look to uncover further details and testimonials about the doctor.
To get your reviews up on your site, you have a couple of options.
You could opt to copy and paste previous patients’ testimonials on your site (with written permission) like this:
Or if you’re using GatherUp, you could use tags and a tag widget to filter both 1st party reviews left on your site and 3rd-party reviews left on Google to appear on your site.
You could set up tags so that reviews mentioning specific doctors or treatments appear on specific pages, or simply have your top star ratings appear on the homepage:
How can doctors ask for reviews?
Doctors may find it hard to find the right time to ask patients for reviews. After all, as well as being a business, they must prioritize patient well-being and interactions above everything else.
But when patients are asked respectfully and at the right time, you’ll find that most satisfied patients will be happy to provide you with a review.
Follow our tips for asking for doctor reviews.
1. Ask at the end of a successful treatment plan
Asking for a review should be part of the last interaction you have with a patient. Wait until your patients have successfully completed their treatment plans and are fit and healthy again.
Requesting reviews midway through a treatment plan may give off the wrong impression and make it look like you’re prioritizing your own reputation over their care.
Timing is everything––you need to strike the right balance between asking shortly after treatment so their experience is fresh in their minds and being respectful of recovery times.
2. Ask long-term satisfied patients
Regular patients are great candidates for writing reviews. They may know more specific details about you as a medical professional as well as your practice. If they’ve been a loyal patient to your practice for a while, they’ll probably be happy to leave you a quick online review.
You could do this by simply sending them a quick note saying thank you for choosing you for the past years or months. Say something along the lines of “I appreciate your loyalty to [practice name]. If you have a moment, I’d really appreciate an online review on [site name].”
3. Leverage automation to follow-up on personalized feedback requests
While personalized feedback requests are always best, tracking these requests can get time-consuming. People are busy and although they intend to write you an online review they might forget.
In these instances, you could send them an automated reminder email. We recommend leaving at least 7 days between your initial request and your scheduled follow-up.
Best-practice tips for doctor reviews
When approaching patients for reviews, it’s important to stick to a few best practices.
1. Respect your patients’ wishes
While it would be great if all your patients left glowing reviews on multiple websites, some patients may not feel comfortable leaving healthcare reviews. This may be because they don’t want others to find out a confidential treatment they had or they simply prefer to keep their healthcare matters private.
If a patient expresses that they don’t want to leave you a review, always respect their wishes and don’t ask them again.
2. Slowly build up reviews
If you’re new to the world of doctor reviews, it can be tempting to gather as many reviews in as short a time as possible to build up your online reputation. But remember that review sites like Google prefer to see reviews trickle in slowly and steadily.
A natural review rate that’s in keeping with industry trends looks authentic to review sites and prevents you from drawing attention for the wrong reasons.
3. Don’t filter out negative feedback
A natural review profile will include some negative feedback. Don’t fall into the trap of trying to eliminate it––this is a big red flag in the eyes of review sites.
Instead, respond to it in a timely and authentic manner (more on this later.)
4. Prioritize a mix of 3rd-party sites and your own site
Having a presence on all of the sites we mentioned earlier is important for maintaining a healthy and strong online presence. But to avoid spreading yourself too thin, it’s best to prioritize 2-3 review sites.
Choose a mix of 3rd-party, industry-specific, and 1st-party review sites. For example, you could choose to prioritize Google, Healthgrades, and your practice’s site.
If you’re looking for more ideas and best practices, check out our article on tips for increasing reviews.
How to reply to doctor reviews
While replying to reviews is important no matter your business industry, doctors and healthcare professionals need to consider a couple of additional elements when forming a reply.
Doctors must make sure to respect laws around patient confidentiality. By U.S law, they need to comply with HIPAA security rules.
Simply put, these rules mean doctors must protect the privacy of individuals’ health information.
From an online review standpoint, this means doctors mustn’t accidentally divulge any private information about the patient’s condition or treatment plan in their review response.
Review replies need to refrain from disclosing any sensitive patient information. For inspiration of how a doctor review response should look take a look at this review reply:
Failing to comply with HIPAA could mean doctors are liable to legal action including license losses and suing.
Replying to positive feedback
A thoughtful reply to a positive review will show your patient that you appreciate them and may encourage others reading to leave a review too.
When replying to a review follow this checklist:
- Thank the patient for their review
- Address your response to the reviewer
- Keep your response brief and free from personal details like treatment plans
- Say how much you value their feedback
Simple responses like this one work well. Equally, you could choose to elaborate a little more in your response:
Replying to negative feedback
No matter how great the overall quality of care and your practice, all doctors will receive some negative feedback at some point. Sometimes it may be something out of your control, or perhaps standards slipped. Either way, how you address the negative feedback is what matters.
If you feel down about a recent negative review, remember that when a patient’s negative feedback is addressed by the practice, the rate of patient satisfaction roughly doubles, increasing by 99%.
A genuine response that shows care will show potential patients that you’re prepared to take feedback on board and make any necessary changes.
When replying to negative feedback do the following:
- Apologize if the experience didn’t meet their expectations
- Ask the patient to contact you and provide more details about their experience
- Show that you’re making changes to your service so that future patients don’t suffer in the same way
Take the time to thoughtfully reply to each of your reviews and demonstrate your commitment to patient care and satisfaction.
Here’s an example of how to do this:
Learn more about how to reply to reviews.
How can doctors and their practices market their reviews?
Before sharing reviews on your website or with your social media audience, again take care to comply with HIPAA. This is especially true for feedback that patients may send to you directly instead of publishing on a review site.
For example, if you receive a positive testimonial via email and your patient has shared detailed information about themselves and their health condition along with feedback about your service, you can’t then copy and paste this onto your site.
Publishing this on your site would be a breach of patient confidentiality laws and may land you and your practice in hot water.
On the other hand, reviews that talk about you as a professional and your practice in general, are great for repurposing for marketing purposes.
1. Embed the review badge on your site
Embedding the review badge on your site enables you to display your average star rating and the total number of reviews you or your practice has received.
Potential patients can get a quick overview of how others rated their experience with you.
2. Use tags to market different services you offer
Reviews that mention specific services or treatments you offer are great for including on specific web pages.
For example, if you’re a plastic surgeon you may have several separate web pages detailing your services:
If this plastic surgery wanted to take their marketing one step further they could use tags to incorporate reviews including keywords like “facelift” and “nasal reshaping” on their relevant pages.
With GatherUp you can set up a tag widget to automatically add positive reviews with the right keywords to certain web pages. This would make it easier for prospective patients to read about your services and simultaneously learn about past patients’ experiences.
Learn more about the power of using tags on your website.
Use online doctor reviews to build trust and improve your reputation
Doctor reviews are essential for increasing trust among your potential patient base as well as showing appreciation to your past patients.
These days, new patients will likely always give your name a quick Google search before contacting you. For that reason, it makes sense to develop a solid online review strategy.
Setting some time aside to improve your online review strategy will ultimately help you improve your reputation and receive more patient inquiries.