You’ve worked hard to build your own optometry practice—and you pride yourself in delivering the highest standard of patient care. Unfortunately, all it takes is one negative online review to have a huge impact on your business. In fact, research has found that 72% of today’s consumers read online reviews and ratings before they book with a new healthcare provider—and that the same percentage of respondents prefer providers with a four-star rating or higher.
If you want your optometry practice to thrive, having a great online reputation is key. Specifically, by knowing how to respond to online reviews (and how not to respond), you can boost the reputation of your practice over time. Meanwhile, by understanding how reputation management services work and how they can benefit your practice, you can make informed and confident decisions moving forward.
The Importance of Reputation Management for Optometrists
There’s no overstating the importance of reputation management for healthcare providers—and optometrists are no exception. With so many people taking the time to read online reviews and ratings before choosing an eye care provider, your online reputation can have a direct impact on your ability to bring in new patients (and retain existing ones). Unfortunately, even one or two scathing reviews of your practice will likely be enough to send prospective patients elsewhere.
On the other hand, overwhelmingly positive reviews and ratings can give potential clients the extra push they need to schedule a new-patient appointment at your eye care practice. Whether patients are boasting about your optometrists’ compassionate care, friendly office staff, or convenient appointment hours, great reviews can go a long way in building your online reputation and growing your practice.
HIPAA Challenges and Tips for Boosting Your Online Reputation
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) provides certain protections for patient data, including personal health information. You and your staff are already used to following HIPAA laws in your everyday dealings within your practice. However, it’s important to understand that many of the same protections extend outside of the physical practice to the web.
This means that, when responding to reviews and ratings, you and your staff need to be careful about what you say and the type of information you include. Fortunately, there are a few simple best practices you and your office staff can keep in mind to stay in HIPAA compliance while responding to online reviews of your practice.
Never Divulge Personal Health Information in Review Responses
Sometimes, reviewers may include some of their own patient health insurance in their comments. This is fine, but it’s important that you and your staff avoid including any of this information in your own responses. Even acknowledging the reviewer as a current patient could go against HIPAA guidelines, so it’s always best to air on the side of caution here.
Don’t Reach Out to Reviewers Privately
Typically, patients must specifically opt into receiving communications from their medical providers. As tempting as it may be to respond to a review (especially a negative one) with a personal email, you cannot do this without written consent. If you do reach out to a reviewer privately and without their consent, you could end up facing a HIPAA violation if they choose to report the incident.
Consult With a Legal Team
Sometimes, it’s best to come up with a few “canned” responses to some common types of reviews so that you and your office staff can essentially copy and paste them as they see fit. If you decide to go this route, it’s not a bad idea to consult with a legal professional and ensure that all responses are in HIPAA compliance. This can save you and your team a lot of time while ensuring that nothing is said or typed that might get your optometry practice into trouble.
Take the Good With the Bad (And Learn From the Bad)
Last but not least, avoid “flagging” negative reviews in an effort to get them removed unless they are completely defamatory or vulgar. Unfortunately, some negative (or even lukewarm) reviews are a part of running any medical practice. At the end of the day, what’s most important is that you and your team grow from the negative experiences and aim to improve your practice as a result of honest patient feedback.
If you do end up making changes to the way you do things at your practice as a result of a negative review, be sure to mention this in your response. This will demonstrate not only to your reviewer that you care enough to make a change, but it also shows potential clients that you’re invested in your patient experience and are always looking for ways to improve.
Managing and Responding to Online Reviews of Your Optometry Practice
Now that you have a better understanding of some best practices to follow when it comes to HIPAA and managing your online reputation, what are some specific tips to follow when handling positive and negative reviews of your optometry practice?
For Positive Reviews
Start by encouraging positive reviews whenever possible. All too often, patients won’t be inclined to leave a review of an optometry clinic unless they have a particularly good or bad experience. By reaching out to your current patients directly and asking them to leave a review of your clinic, you can encourage people to leave reviews who might not have otherwise. You might even consider providing patients with a direct link to a review site so they don’t have to go through the hassle themselves.
Another way to encourage people to leave reviews of your optometry practice is to post on social media. More than likely, your followers on social media are mostly comprised of current patients. By making a quick post that requests current patients to review your practice (and providing a direct link to a review site), you can reach potential reviewers directly.
As positive reviews of your optometry practice begin to come in, be sure to take the time and respond to them thoughtfully. This little bit of time and effort can go a long way and will show prospective patients that you care enough to actively read your reviews. You might even consider sharing some of the best reviews on your Facebook page or using them to create a “testimonials” page on your practice’s website.
For Negative Reviews
As you can probably imagine, handling negative reviews of your optometry practice is a lot more difficult than managing those glowing reviews. Even one bad review can drag you down and scare new patients off—but how you respond to these kinds of reviews can make all the difference.
Consider negative reviews an opportunity for you to show your patients and prospective patients that you take feedback seriously. No matter how derogatory the review may be, it’s important that you respond publicly and acknowledge the reviewer’s concerns. Likewise, taking the time to explain how your practice will make things right or improve the situation for future patients can make a huge difference. At the end of the day, patients don’t expect perfection out of their providers; what they do look for is a provider who values their patients and takes feedback to heart.
How a Reputation Management Platform for Optometrists Can Help
Feeling overwhelmed in your quest to manage your optometry practice’s online reputation? The good news is that a reputation management platform for optometrists can do a lot of the heavy lifting on your behalf so you can focus on doing what you do best: providing quality and compassionate care to your patients.
Specifically, the Surefire Local Marketing Platform connects with top review platforms (including Google Business Profile, Facebook, and Yelp) so you can see all your online reviews in one centralized interface. From there, you can even respond to reviews from a single, comprehensive platform while optimizing your brand presence and managing your own business directories. This platform can also be easily used to send review requests to customers, allowing you to potentially bring in more positive reviews to boost your reputation with minimal effort on your part. Likewise, seamless reporting and word-cloud graphs make it easy for you to measure sentiment about your practice visually.
Request a Free Demo of Surefire Local Today
The Surefire Local Marketing Platform is already trusted by many optometry professionals looking to boost their online reputations and increase brand awareness. Plus, you may be surprised to learn that this all-in-one platform costs just a fraction of the price of many other reputation management tools and resources available today.
Interested in learning more? Book a free, no-obligation demo of Surefire Local by reaching out to our friendly team today!