There was a time in the not-so-distant past when all doctors were an almost “untouchable” part of our society, automatically held in high esteem because of their position, and almost rarely questioned by patients about their specific training and history.
Well, those days are long past, and the scrutiny faced by dentists and other medical professionals has never been greater. Patients are demanding more visibility and information about their healthcare providers, and sites like RateMDs.com and RankMyDentist.com are giving it to them. It’s estimated that as high as 70 percent of patients now consult online reviews before making a deciding on a dentist.
And they are taking the information the find online very seriously. According to a study by Erik Qualman of Socialnomics, nearly three-quarters say they trust the information provided by total strangers online, and 92 percent say they have more confidence in the information they find online than they do in anything provided directly from you, according to the Wall Street Journal!
And they talk. Seven in ten who read reviews or ratings online share them with friends, family and colleagues, thus amplifying their impact, according to a study by Deloitte & Touche. Word gets around fast in an online world.
Visibility would seem to be good for everyone, as long as it’s accurate. But information published about dentists online is unregulated, unfiltered and often totally wrong. Patients have become publishers, and they don’t have an editor or fact checker!
Every dentist knows that sometimes you have to tell a patient something they don’t necessarily want to hear.
Unfortunately, this perceived “negative experience” will often end up as a negative review online, and every negative review has been demonstrated to reduce patient volume and dentist billings. In fact, an average difference in rating of just one “star” can lead to a difference in revenue of 5 to 9 percent. Considering the increasingly tight margins in the dental industry, this can dramatically diminish your take-home income.
Negative content published online about dentists and other health professionals can detrimentally affect their reputation—both online and in the “real world.” A quick review of the top healthcare review sites will show reviews that some would consider defamatory, and maybe even misleading.
But they are there, and they aren’t going away. So what can a dentist do about it?
The biggest mistake a dentist can make in today’s competitive world is to bury their head in the sand and pretend that their online reputation doesn’t matter. Doing so is making the decision to literally throw away future earnings and practice value.
A better choice is to invest in reputation management and marketing practices that will protect and enhance your online reputation. Here are some best practices for dentists:
1. Be aware of your bedside manner
Every healthcare professional needs to think about their bedside manner—and dentists are no exception. Patients mention a dentist’s affect and demeanor in online reviews more than any other factor, so you can do a lot to inspire positive feedback by making patients feel heard, understood and valued.
The top contributing factors to a positive bedside manner seem to be the overall friendliness and sense of caring that you communicate, the degree to which you explain the “why” to the patient, and proactively providing the patient with more information and resources to learn more about their oral health.
2. Get support from your patients
The unfortunate reality is that a disappointed patient is roughly six times more likely to leave an online review than a very happy patient, which can create a “negative tilt” on your reputation.
To counter this, you must have a system in place that encourages patients to leave a positive review online and makes it easy for them to do so. These “reputation management systems,” as they are called, are often extensions of your website, and can include things like video testimonials.
3. Monitor what is being said
Dentists should put in place a reputation monitoring service to ensure that someone is keeping an eye out for your online reputation. Oftentimes, the best way to protect your reputation is to engage in a conversation with the patient leaving negative feedback.
But this can only be done if you know it’s been published in the first place.
4. Use an online reputation management service.
Most dental professionals don’t have the time, expertise or inclination to become full-time advertisers or reputation management experts. A whole industry of reputation management (or reputation marketing) service providers has arisen to make sure you don’t have to.
By outsourcing these time consuming tasks, dentists and their staff can focus their time and energy where they should—on enhancing the patient experience.
By now, you should realize that this is an issue every dentist needs to get their hands around. But where to start?
The following site offers a Free Online Reputation Analysis to give you complete visibility into your online reputation and what is being said about you online.
FREE Reputation Report Reveals Exactly What Your Patients Are Saying About Your Practice and How to Easily Become the Market Leader In Your Area.