New Research: NPR Reports that Online Reviews Can Make or Break Your Dental Practice

NPR reported on some interesting information regarding doctor reviews online via a partnership between ProPublica and Yelp. Yelp isn’t just for restaurants and stores anymore; its share of the review market in the healthcare industry is steadily growing, with 1.3 million health reviews collected to date.

What’s interesting about this data is that overall, people are mostly happy and are happy to share their positive reviews, but aren’t usually that vocal. That said, those who are unhappy are quick to say why, where and how with 1 star reviews. They’re loud about their dissatisfaction and want others to know about it. One reviewer stated, “people put a lot of trust into their healthcare providers, and if my review could help others make an informed decision regarding their treatment, then it was worth it.”

Another interesting trend is that while Yelp reviewers are more likely to leave positive reviews for health providers than stores or restaurants, the providers that do the best are those who make their patients feel better quickly: acupuncturists, massage therapists, and the like. Doctors and dentists, on the other hand, can take longer to show results and their reviews suffer for it. The data reports that “doctors earned a lower proportion of five-star reviews than other health professionals, pushing their average review to the lowest of any large health profession.” One dental chain actually received over 3,000 reviews, the majority negative. Its average star rating is 1.8 out of 5 stars. Pretty dismal.

As a healthcare provider, how do you combat this? The answer isn’t as difficult as you may think: Simply ask for feedback.

At People & Practice we find that asking patients for feedback while they’re still in the office has a few great benefits:

  1. You find out which of your patients are happy and can reach out to them specifically, asking if they’d be willing to leave a review on a public site. Get them talking!
  2. Unhappy patients get a chance to blow off steam while airing their grievances…often when they’re done they’ve gotten it off their chest and move on, never leaving a what might have been a scathing public review. Plus you can then follow-up to smooth things over.
  3. You get a chance to grow and improve your practice by hearing ‘straight from the horse’s mouth’ about where you’re successful and where you could improve.

Another way to combat the negativity on Yelp is to help your prospective patients bypass Yelp altogether by boosting your presence on Google+. Google+ pages are set up in such a way that you can both interact with patients and have the page showcase their positive feedback.

Building your public reviews on Google+ has an added benefit. Research shows that the majority of people using the internet for search default to Google as their search engine. If you build up public reviews on your Google+ page they will begin to appear under your website in search results! That means 5 pretty, eye catching stars, showing up under your website. These will be the first thing prospective patients will see. Quite a glowing recommendation, don’t you think?

Building your online presence with reviews and engagement takes work, but given the trends outlined in ProPublica’s research, the impact on your business can be significant.

For the original NPR story, click here. To listen to the podcast, click here. For more tips, tricks and help, reach out to us at People & Practice.

Jessie Pressman, Reputation Management Specialist, People & Practice