Do you think online reputation management is only for big hospitals and healthcare plans? With the popularity of Web based review and rating sites like Yelp, HealthGrades, WebMD, ZocDoc and Vitals, proactively monitoring and managing your online reputation is critically important regardless of the size of your healthcare organization or group.

Here are seven ways to help you manage your healthcare organization’s online reputation.

  1. Use social media proactively to engage with your patients/potential patients. Companies and organizations large and small have seen the benefits (and sometimes felt the sting) of having a presence on Facebook and Twitter. Much of the negative banter on social media is a result of frustration rather than outright malice; a patient is angry about delays in the waiting room, a clinician’s ‘bedside’ manner, or why a particular procedure or drug is so costly. By inviting your patients and potential patients to visit your Facebook page or follow your organization on Twitter, you can often identify and respond to issues before they escalate to influential healthcare rating sites. Besides, a little social media every day can help protect against bad search engine results.
  2. Create interesting content. Content creation is an excellent way to build your ‘brand’ online. Think about blogging or writing short articles and sharing them on social media. Answer questions on Twitter, LinkedIn or Quora and share your expertise publicly. A positive established online reputation is a valuable asset when you are faced with negative comments or ratings. And don’t worry about search engine optimization (SEO). In the past, focusing on SEO and keywords resulted in better search results but today’s search engines are more sophisticated. New algorithms base rankings differently. Focus on writing compelling content and don’t worry about keywords.
  3. Monitor and manage Google and review/ratings sites.
 Your reputation is widely available and easily accessible online. When people are looking for an individual physician or a healthcare organization, often the first thing they do is Google your name or organization name. They also check you out on Yelp (it’s not just for restaurant and travel reviews!), HealthGrades, even WebMD. Leading Reach, a trade show organizing company, has published a list of seven top healthcare rating sites. Check it out here.
  4. Respond quickly—but carefully. Negative reviews or comments, if ignored, can spread like wildfire on social media. A bad review can be seen and shared by hundreds—even thousands—within the first few hours after being posted. Responding quickly is the best way to minimize the damage caused by these comments as it helps to ensure that your point of view is also seen by anyone reading the original review. CAVEAT: Pause and take a deep breath before responding to negative comments; avoid a knee-jerk reaction that can further escalate the situation. Plus, you must protect the patient’s rights to privacy. If you’re not sure how to respond, or if you think further investigation is needed, quickly acknowledge the comment and ask the reviewer to contact you offline.
  5. Be transparent. Encourage your patients to share their experiences—positive or negative, but ask them to give you an opportunity to remedy any concerns they have before they simply post a negative review. Help them understand that your online reputation reflects on your ability to provide the highest quality healthcare. Encourage a conversation or dialogue with you; most people simply want to be heard. Transparency and empathy are just two great benefits to online review responses.
  6. Don’t delete comments unless absolutely necessaryUnless a comment is racist, offensive, or otherwise in very poor taste, deleting a negative comment or review is usually a bad idea. Deleting negative comments can be perceived as covering up an issue or admitting guilt. Plus, if the patient sees their comment removed even if you did respond directly (when possible), there are other social media platforms for them to vent their frustration such as personal Facebook and Twitter accounts. There are also proven benefits to responding to comments, rather than deleting them.
  7. Recognize that reputation management is a long-term endeavor. As with traditional branding, there is no quick way to build a highly credible online reputation. You must create and share content (blogs, articles, insights) for at consistently for 6-12 months before you start being noticed as an ‘influencer’ and your organization has ‘street cred.’

How much do you now about your organization’s online reputation? What measures have you taken to manage it? Share your thoughts with us!