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Your appointment with rebranding

Keith Richards

The Yelp-ification of health care

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21st March 2015 |

Manage your online reputation for five-star ROI

Think of the worst customer service you’ve experienced lately. Maybe a waiter not only ignored your empty water glass, but ignored the fact that you’re allergic to pesto? Now think of the best service you’ve gotten. Did a mechanic take a little extra time to explain exactly what was causing that rattling noise in your engine, walking you through your bill and making sure you understood? And in between, try to remember one of the thousand mediocre customer service experiences that have disappeared from your mind as soon as the dry cleaning is picked up, or the burrito is eaten, or the new sofa has been delivered.

 

As humans, it’s the very best and the very worst experiences that we remember, and that we share with others. And in a surprising twist in human nature, when we review our experiences online, we tend to be more positive. In 2013, 39% of Yelp reviews were 5 stars, and 27% were 4 stars. This is good news for health providers, since review websites are no longer just for restaurants. In fact, 6% of Yelp reviews are health related, and sites like RateMDs and HealthGrades are basically “Yelp for doctors.”

 

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It’s a brave new world of online reputation building and health care transparency—and it’s one you can’t afford not to understand, manage, and ultimately, control. Where do you start?

Well, your patients might have gotten started without you.

 

Perform an audit.

Do you (and your staff) know what your patients are saying about you? If not, it’s time to learn. Find your reviews online (the sites mentioned above are a good place to start), and send everyone on staff a direct link. Once everyone has thoroughly read and understood what your patients are saying—good, bad, mediocre—get your team together and use that feedback as a starting point. Each negative point is an opportunity to find a better way to do things. Each positive review is a highlight of what you’re doing well, and could expand on. Don’t blame, don’t point fingers. This is part of your strategy for getting staff onboard with future changes, so focus on the positive.

 

You’ve got eighteen minutes, plus wait time. Make the most of it.

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Doctor’s visits are much shorter than they used to be—the current average is eighteen minutes. But just because time is short doesn’t mean that you can afford to be brusque. Think about your patient experience in an end-to-end way, examining the treatment they receive from front-end to follow-up. Does your staff greet patients promptly? Is the office clean and inviting? Do the surroundings say “modern, streamlined, and confidential”? When you’re in the examination room, are you taking the time to fully explain procedures, treatment plans, and next steps? If there’s time, are you doing phone or email follow-ups? Remember that your “everyday” could be a very anxious experience for this patient. Any time you (or your staff) have an opportunity to reassure a patient, make the most of it. It might sound like extra work, but as these behaviors become ingrained, the repeat patients and improved reviews will more than return your investment in providing a better experience.

 

Yelpification-Graphic-5Control the narrative.

Want good reviews? Ask for them. If you’re offering an optimized experience, your staff is onboard and working to reassure and relax your patients, and your examination-room-to-follow-up game is as tight as can be, then you’re ready to ASK for reviews. Obviously, not every patient is going to have a good experience at the doctor’s office, even if they’re greeted with a bucket of champagne and a heated examination gown. It takes a little finessing to know which patients you should ask for an online review. This is something your staff should get good at—as patients exit, are they smiling? Are they generally in a good mood? If so, their exit packet should contain very explicit directions on how and where to leave you a review, and it should be accompanied by a verbal ask. Did the patient have a 30-minute wait or express frustration? If so, the call to action is different. Remember, they still represent an opportunity to gather feedback on what you could do better. A follow-up call asking what they’d like to see more of in future or a patient survey they can fill out and send back to you can provide valuable insight.

In your patient’s lives, you want to be that mechanic who goes the extra mile—the one they’ll return to again and again, and tell other people about. You don’t want to be just another forgettable burrito, and you certainly don’t want to be the waiter who tried to murder them with poisonous pesto. In the end, patients are just people. And as care becomes more patient-centric and consumer-oriented, the little touches that make the difference between a “three-star” and a “five-star” visit will have long-reaching consequences for your practice.

 

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