The Intake

Insights for those starting, managing, and growing independent healthcare practices

Boost your reputation: Strategies for doctors to get 5-star patient reviews

Make a lasting impression on potential patients and improve your online reputation. Read on for expert tips and strategies for getting 5-star reviews.

At a Glance

  • 77% of patients search for new healthcare providers online, and positive recent reviews influence their decisions
  • Practices must actively and ethically encourage, monitor, and respond to reviews to build trust and improve visibility
  • Automation helps to scale review collection while maintaining HIPAA compliance

The sheer quantity of options online makes selecting a new healthcare provider today overwhelming. And with more information available than ever before, researching new providers has become part and parcel of the healthcare consumer’s journey — 77% of people say they often or regularly search online for new providers, according to Tebra’s fourth annual Patient Perspectives report.

Positive online reviews are a powerful differentiator for practices. 3 in 4 patients say online reviews are extremely or very important when choosing a healthcare provider. Online reviews serve as social proof for the experience an individual is likely to have, and prospective patients turn to reviews to ensure a provider will offer the level of care and professionalism they’re after.  

Below are reasons why medical practice reviews and ratings are essential to reputation management and practice growth, as well as forming a crucial part of your comprehensive practice marketing strategy. We’ll also discuss simple strategies to elicit more of them. Here’s what we’ll cover:

  • The importance of patient feedback: The value of online reviews and why practices should implement a strategy to get more patient reviews.
  • How to encourage patients to leave online reviews: How to ask patients for reviews and actionable ways to increase patient feedback. 
  • How to automate asking for patient reviews: Why automation is the gold standard when it comes to collecting more feedback and reviews for your practice. 
  • Maintaining HIPAA compliance when seeking patient reviews: What to know when it comes to compliance. 
  • How to monitor your online reviews: Keeping tabs of your online reputation.
  • How to respond to negative online reviews: Why responding to criticism is essential and what to say.
77% of people say they often or regularly look online for new providers. ”

The importance of patient feedback

Learn how patient reviews impact the success of your practice.

How positive reviews attract new patients 

Today’s patients are digitally savvy individuals who turn to the web when it’s time to find a new provider. Reviews are highly influential and positive reviews set your practice apart. But patients aren’t just looking to see a handful of sterling 4-star reviews; they’re sizing up your practice for the number of reviews, the average star rating, and how recent they are. 

When selecting a new provider, patients look for:  

  • More than 10 reviews. More reviews speaks to the longevity of your business and implies more engaged patients. 
  • At least a 4-star average but ideally 4.2 or higher. Over half (56%) of patients won’t consider an average star rating of less than 4, and more than 1 in 5 patients will only consider providers that have a perfect 5-star rating.
  • Consistency of reviews. Regularly posted reviews are a must. Practices want at least 1 to 2 reviews per month, but ideally 1 to 2 per week.

Tebra’s Patient Perspectives survey found that an average star rating is the most important consideration for 38% of patients, while review recency is most important for 43%. External research backs up the need for regularly posted reviews. Data from the consumer review research site BrightLocal reveals 48% of consumers say a review more than 2 weeks old won’t impact their decision. And any review more than 3 months old is considered irrelevant by 93% of consumers. 

Positive online reviews also help boost your position in the search engine results pages (SERPS), like Google. Google’s local search algorithm is based on relevance, distance, and prominence, with prominence determined in part by number and recency of reviews because it shows that the community thinks you’re notable.

an average star rating is the most important consideration for 38% of patients, while review recency is most important for 43% ”

Benefits of online reviews 

  • More net-new patients: Reviews support new patient acquisition and help you rank higher on Google. 
  • Increased credibility: Positive testimonials from patients are social proof for prospective ones. Reading about the great patient experiences of others at your practice boost trust for potential ones. 
  • Better online visibility: Having more reviews not only attracts new customers, but also improves your visibility in search rankings. 

Practices need a smart strategy to elicit consistent patient feedback in order to attract net-new patients and grow the business. 

How to encourage patients to leave online reviews

How to encourage patients to leave online reviews

The best way to get more patient reviews is to ask for them. Most patients are happy to share a review of their experience — especially if it was positive. BrightLocal’s Local Consumer Review Survey 2023 found people are more likely to leave online reviews for a great experience (67%) as compared to a negative one (40%).

Patients often just need some encouragement. Increasing the number of reviews you receive can be as easy as asking patients to do so and simplifying the process for them. Requesting reviews from patients doesn’t have to be complicated, and it doesn’t even need to be in person. Rather, a simple “Your feedback is appreciated” message can go a long way, just be sure to provide more than one way to leave a review, and ask at various touchpoints along the patient journey.

People are more likely to leave online reviews for a great experience (67%) as compared to a negative one (40%). ”

When and how to ask patients for reviews

  • On appointment reminder cards: Include a brief request on the back of physical appointment reminder cards for reviews.
  • Email and text messaging: Use follow-up or appointment reminder emails and texts to request patient reviews and include a link to your profile.
  • Snail mail postcards. Send postcards to patients to thank them for being valued patients and request a review. 
  • Make it part of the front office routine with patient follow-ups: Train your staff to request online reviews. Print posters and cards with the QR code to leave a review and post them near the front office and around the lobby.  

Other tips to encourage patients to leave reviews

Outside of the actual ask, there are ways for practices to encourage feedback. 

  • Respond to reviews. For one, be sure to respond to all reviews, positive and negative. This signals to the author and others that you value patient input, and will encourage other patients to share their thoughts, too.
  • Optimize your web presence and claim your profile across review sites. Streamline your reputation across the web and make it easy for patients to find you by claiming your profile on online business listings, reviews sites, and healthcare profile websites. That way patients can easily submit reviews of your practice and read about other individuals’ experience.
  • Ensure an excellent patient experience. Offer a stellar in-office or virtual experience that patients would be inclined to share about — remember that consumers are more likely to leave a review for a positive interaction than a negative one. What’s more, today’s patient journey has lots of touchpoints, providing even more opportunities to deliver. 
  • Automate the ask: Outsource the effort of getting new patient reviews with reputation management tools that automatically send requests to all patients and follow up for the best chance of getting regular reviews. 

How to automate asking for patient reviews 

Automating the ask for patient reviews is a must for any practice seeking to streamline and improve the process. Doing so increases response rates, simplifies the process for patients to leave reviews, and trims the administrative burden of managing requests in-person. 

Reputation management software lets practices automatically send requests for reviews to all patients. While not every patient will write one, automating the process makes it possible to collect responses at scale; the more requests you send out, the more responses you’re likely to receive. And practices may be surprised how much feedback they get — people are more likely to post reviews and offer feedback than ever before. According to Tebra’s 2023 patient survey, 48% of patients have posted an online review of a healthcare provider, which is up 3% from 2022.

Automating requests for patient reviews allows practices to follow up with those who don't respond to the initial communication, offering multiple opportunities for feedback. Since individuals may forget to leave a review while the visit is fresh, this method ensures timely input. Automated requests streamline the feedback process for both the patient and the practice.

Using a platform to automate feedback requests also works well when approaching long-time patients, who may find an in-person request awkward after so many years of business. 

Maintaining HIPAA compliance when seeking patient reviews 

HIPAA is always top of mind for healthcare practices. Stay compliant with HIPAA by remaining general and anonymous. When requesting patient feedback, use a general template rather than referring to the details of a recent visit. 

There’s no need to let a patient know that you’d like their feedback regarding their recent visit for indigestion. Rather, just say you’d like to hear what they thought of their experience. The same advice applies when responding to patient feedback. Avoid sharing any personal details about the visit. Just thank the individual for their feedback and move on. 

How to monitor your online reviews

How to monitor your online reviews

Practices can monitor their online reviews by regularly reviewing their profiles and online listings on sites like Google, Yelp, Healthgrades, Facebook, and more. 

Most of these review sites or social media platforms offer automated notifications for new activity, like reviews and ratings, if businesses set up an account or claim a profile. 

How to respond to negative online reviews

How to respond to negative online reviews

It can be tempting to ignore negative reviews, especially if you believe the complaint has no merit. But doing so can multiply the consequences.

Responding to negative reviews makes the author feel heard and gives your practice an opportunity to remedy the issue. Tebra’s patient survey found that almost 2 in 3 (64%) patients would return to a practice that addressed concerns they shared in a negative review.

2 in 3 (64%) patients would return to a practice that addressed concerns they shared in a negative review. ”
2023 Patient Perspectives report

Responding to negative reviews doesn’t have to be complicated. Here’s what to keep in mind. 

  • Reply in a timely fashion. Respond within 1 to 2 days in the forum in which the negative comments or review appears. That gives everyone a chance to see your reply and your concern. The longer you wait, the more it may appear you don’t care. 
  • Be concise. Keep your response short and polite to avoid saying anything that could violate HIPAA. Sound individualized, but not defensive or too explanatory. Offer your thanks for the feedback and that your business works to avoid the issue they’ve voiced. You don’t need to say much more than that to show you’re ready to address the issue.
  • Move the conversation offline. Ask the patient to reach out directly so the practice can remedy their concern. Doing so gives your practice the opportunity to offer a solution to their complaint out of the public arena. 

For step-by-step guidance and scripts on what to say, check out “Tips to handle negative reviews with ease.” 

Strengthen your reputation

With most people o finding new healthcare providers online, patient reviews can make or break your chances of landing patient referrals, acquiring new patients, and growing your business

Practices need a reputation management strategy that enables you to automate requests for reviews and collect them at scale. But receiving positive patient feedback isn’t all your practice needs to focus on. Responding to online reviews — positive and negative — is critical to soothing disgruntled patients and creating a positive impression for those who view the comment. 

How to boost a healthcare practice's online reputation infographic

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Written by

Catherine Tansey, business writer and reporter

Catherine Tansey is a business and healthcare writer and reporter. She has close to a decade of experience writing and reporting on small business best practices, emerging technology, market trends, and more. Catherine has several family members who own private practices in mental health services, dentistry, and chiropractics, and she’s seen firsthand the pride and privilege practice owners feel to be able to support their communities.

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