Bolstering Your Healthcare Brand With Social Proof

As a communications professional in the healthcare space, you take your job of controlling the message very seriously. Public feedback, like ratings, reviews, and social comments, can help you – or it can hinder you. Here’s how you can leverage reviews and manage public feedback to more effectively manage your health system’s reputation and bolster your overall marketing plan.

Ask for Reviews

Patient reviews and provider responses are key factors in reputation management and consumer choice. But when you think of taking a hands-off approach to these public messages, the nightmare scenarios begin to play in your head. What if someone reveals their personal health information (PHI) in a review on a public forum? What if you get only negative patient reviews? What if the negative reviews are personal and damaging to your staff and reputation?

The best way to allay your “what-if” fears is to go on the offensive. Put together a positive campaign to solicit reviews from all your patients. Personalize the ask with an email campaign to all recent patients. You can also add a link to your email footers to make it more convenient for patients to weigh in on their experiences. Engage providers in your campaign to get more patient reviews by providing them with reminders and materials that make it easy to bring up the subject of reviews while they are meeting with patients.

Monitor and Respond

Once you get those patient reviews rolling in, you’ll probably see that a majority of them are positive. Your marketing and communication team should monitor all the major feedback channels to keep the communication flowing. When patients reveal their own PHI in a review, it is best for you to remove that information to comply with HIPAA guidelines. Although it is a patient’s right to reveal their own information if they choose, responding to that information could put your healthcare organization in a difficult legal position.

Regular monitoring of patient reviews will give you the earliest warning if patients post negative feedback. Most reviews should get a response from someone on your team. Responding to the negative reviews quickly can help mitigate any damage to your healthcare brand.

Here are some other tips for responding to patient reviews:

  1. Act Quickly: Negative reviews left unanswered can work against your brand’s claim to be personal and responsive to patient needs. They may also give the appearance that you are not paying attention to public review forums, another perception that could erode your brand. People may start to think that if you are not paying attention to patient concerns, what other important issues are you ignoring?
  2. Remain HIPAA Compliant: No one on your team is oblivious to HIPAA guidelines, of course. Patient reviews that include personal information, however, can draw a response that puts you in jeopardy with confidentiality regulations. To be on the safe side, never confirm the reviewer’s identity as a patient. Keep your answers more general by referencing your policies about how all patients should be treated. Then, suggest the reviewer contact you for a more personal discussion.
  3. Don’t Rush In With an Emotional Response: You want to respond to negative reviews quickly and calmly. It can be tempting to answer with a negative tone, especially if the patient review calls out a member of the staff or is particularly pointed. Take the time to investigate the situation and come up with a measured and professional response. A conciliatory tone can help de-escalate heightened emotions and present a customer-first approach in a public forum.
  4. Remember Your Brand Voice: Unless your brand persona is defensive and critical, you’ll want to avoid abrupt, confrontational responses to patient reviews. It can be tempting to fall back on some canned answer directing the reviewer to contact you for a more personal discussion, but using the same content for multiple responses tends to de-personalize your brand. Make it your practice to draft multiple messages that are different and on-brand and that could be used to respond to negative patient reviews.
  5. Don’t Ignore the Details: It can be hard to respond to reviews that specifically complain about long wait times or limited parking options. You can’t argue with the reviewer’s experience, and you may not be able to present a solution, like a bigger parking lot on their next visit. Patients who write negative reviews want to be heard. Make sure you reference the details of their complaint in your response and offer to consider future changes based on their concerns.

Plan Your Responses

You may not be the most appropriate person on the team to address patient reviews. It may often be important for the provider or other medical staff to address concerns expressed in the patient review. You may not be able to write those responses, but you can provide guidance to help the responders avoid any possible marketing or legal pitfalls.

Although you don’t want your responses to seem canned, it’s important to craft a response plan and share it with your team. Include some basic guidance in the form of do’s and don’ts. Knowing how to address patient feedback from a communication and brand standpoint will make it easier for those providers to stay on message.

Using Positive Reviews to Your Advantage

While you are busy worrying about controlling the message around negative patient reviews, a lot may be happening on the sunny side of the street. Positive reviews will shine a light on what your team is doing well and what is most important to patients. Use that information to improve your marketing plan and maintain some positive momentum. Here are some suggestions:

  • Keep positive reviews at the top of the page as long as possible by marking them as helpful.
  • Broaden the audience who sees your positive patient reviews by sharing them on your social media channels.
  • Feature patient reviews prominently on your website.
  • Use positive reviews to develop patient stories to share in digital campaigns.

Storytelling is an effective marketing technique for your healthcare brand, and patient reviews can help you uncover the stories you want to tell. Try reaching out to patients who write positive reviews for their involvement. Some may have a more detailed story to tell and be willing to share their healthcare journey for the benefit of other patients.

Still feeling a bit uneasy about opening up to patient reviews for your healthcare brand? Contact LIGHTSTREAM for the support you need to make patient reviews a positive part of your marketing plan. We can help you build a strategy for responding to both positive and negative reviews, as well as developing positive patient reviews into effective marketing content, social media posts, and video testimonials.