In this era of digitalization, conversations and opinions travel at the click of a mouse. People freely express their opinions and experiences through online reviews. If harnessed carefully, online reviews can have multiple benefits for your practice, from building trust, creating a positive online reputation to gathering constructive feedback to improve the patient experience. Positive reviews also provide a sense of trust and credibility and help with SEO for your practice. According to a survey published in 2014 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the use of online reviews and testimonials to select physicians is growing rapidly and is of increasing importance to consumers. The results show that 40% of patients think physician ratings on websites are “somewhat important” and, of those who used the web to search for a physician, 35% selected a doctor based on good ratings. In addition, 27% of these web users reported avoiding a provider with bad ratings. Considering the high level of impact that reviews can make for your practice, deliberate actions must be taken to manage them to your advantage. Let’s have a look at some quick tips to manage online reviews: Don’t deal negatively with negative reviews This part is usually the toughest for physicians, as many fear they may be at the risk of violating HIPAA guidelines. Though physicians have their hands tied by the law (per the HIPAA ACT, physicians cannot publically disclose an individual’s health condition), they can still respond to negative reviews in a balanced way. Physicians need to realize the inevitable fact that not all patients will ever be fully satisfied with the consultation. There will always be some negative or critical reviews or opinions written about you. The best way to handle these is to directly communicate with the person and offer to take the conversation to an alternate platform like mail or personal chat. Be humble while dealing with arrogant and rude people, as the conversation can be seen by many others who will create a perception about your practice by reading the reviews and the way you deal with them. The motto should be to deal with negative reviews in a constructive way and take insights from them to improve your practice. Dealing with the reviews optimistically opens up the lines of communication between the physician and the patients. Don’t fear a professional online interaction and figure out the “right way” to fight with negative online reviews. Monitor your reviews and ratings constantly If you don’t have any idea of what is being said and written about your practice, you won’t be in a position to repair your reputation once any harm has been done. The first and most important step in dealing with rating websites is to have your own profile on the major review websites such as HealthGrades, RateMyMD, Yelp, Vitals, etc. so that you are aware of what is being said about you and patients can directly go to your profile for posting a review. This will help you monitor your ratings in an informed manner. Respond reasonably to positive reviews While this might sound like the easiest part, surprisingly it isn’t! While responding to positive reviews, always accept them in a natural way with gratitude. Just remember – like the negative reviews, even the positive ones are carefully observed by people who analyze your online reputation. The response should be brief, fair and pleasant. That’s it! There should be no invites for events or promotion of your practice, no reaction to any minor complaint the reviewer may have made or any requests to spread the word about you. It can be misinterpreted as a negative form of promotion, so the wise thing would be to just thank the reviewer humbly. Ensure accuracy of information As a physician, it’s your responsibility to provide factual and concise information, declare any conflicts of interest and adopt a sober tone when discussing professional matters. Your patients and other people following you on the social sites refer to what you have written, will assume that you have provided medically correct information and they may act upon it or make decisions on its basis. Reply instantaneously Whenever there is any review/feedback, reply instantaneously. Active social engagement is key to building a positive online reputation. To stay updated about reviews posted about you or your practice, you can flag negative reviews by signing up on Google, Facebook, Yelp, etc. You’ll get an email each time someone writes a negative review. Address the comment publicly so that others can see that you are taking issues and complaints seriously. A physician’s online reputation is very fragile, so it must be managed meticulously. By being proactive about online reputation management and responding effectively to online customer reviews, physicians can turn the tables around in their favor. In this era of patient-powered health, physicians can no longer choose to be silent spectators. Online reviews and ratings have become the defining factors for keeping your appointment book full. Harness the power of reviews to build brand entity and increase patient count at your practice.