In today’s digital world, reputation management for plastic surgeons is incredibly important because whether you like it or not, patient perception is reality, and reviews can make or break your plastic surgery practice. You can’t afford to take a wait-and-see approach. You have to actively take control of your online reputation to make it work for you.
The Importance of Your Online Reputation
Over 75% of consumers research and consult reviews before they choose a provider. And when you take into consideration that 4- and 5-star reviews more than double conversion and that patients are willing to pay 20% more for 5-star services (compared to 4-star), you can see how your online reputation could have a massive impact on your bottom line.
Unfortunately, unhappy patients are much more likely to leave reviews than happy ones. This means that leaving your online reputation to fate could result in dire consequences. It’s vital that you work actively to create a positive online presence and cultivate engagement and positive reviews.
Your reputation can also have a (positive or negative) impact on your overall online presence as well. A good reputation–5-star reviews, quick response times, answered questions–can boost your SEO score with search engines and help you rank higher on Google. But bad reviews can have the reverse effect–they can erode trust in your brand, lead to less traffic on your site, and push you down in the search engine rankings. Google’s number one goal is to give people the most helpful and accurate results. If you have a three-star ranking or lower, they’re going to prioritize doctors in your area who have better results, even if you’re a better match.
How to Grow Your Reputation While Remaining HIPAA-Compliant
Another hugely important factor in reputation management for plastic surgeons is remaining HIPAA-compliant. Failing to do so can result in negative publicity, fines, legal action, blacklisting by search engines, and State Board and regulatory compliance action.
All businesses should be regularly monitoring and replying to their reviews on every site and platform possible. However, doctors have some extra steps to take to ensure that they are in HIPAA compliance. Take the extra time to read through your response to ensure privacy and patient concerns are respected.
Remember that protected health information (PHI) is more than just medical history. Any information that might identify a patient during their course of care is considered PHI under HIPAA. This includes personal information like name, address, phone number, and social as well as medical care information like diagnosis, tests results, and appointment dates or times.
While a patient may willingly expose their own PHI in a negative review, you, as a doctor, may not further expose PHI in your responses. Really, you shouldn’t even acknowledge that they were a patient as that is privileged information. If you do, you can face steep fines and possibly even a lawsuit.
Be Polite and Offer Anonymity
Thanking the reviewer for their feedback is always the first step in a response. Whether it’s positive or negative, thank the person for their review. But do not acknowledge that the reviewer is a patient.
By this we don’t mean deny it, because that’s untruthful and will further enrage the client. Just respond as neutrally as possible and don’t go into specifics or waste time refuting their allegations. Just tell them that if they would like to discuss the matter further, you’re more than happy to talk about their grievances offline.
It may be helpful to have a few templated responses that you’ve had approved by your legal and compliance teams to ensure HIPAA compliance. You can upload these into your reputation management platform for easy customization and responses.
You should also remember that it is illegal in most states to email a patient without their consent. Even if you recognize the patient by their username or story, you cannot reach out to them by email first because that is an inappropriate use of your access to the PHI and a HIPAA violation all on its own. Unless they gave you their email and asked you to speak to them that way, contact them by phone or ask for reviews in person.
HIPAA Compliance Applies to Positive Reviews and Testimonials
It can be easy to let your guard down when it comes to positive reviews and your favorite patients. But remember that HIPAA applies to every patient, not just the ones who leave negative reviews. Even if you had a blast in the recovery room, you are still prohibited from acknowledging that this person was your patient. Resist the urge to joke around or be too familiar in your responses.
You should also keep in mind that unless you have explicit permission from the patient, you are not allowed to use their positive review in any kind of advertising. If you would like to use their comment on your website or in an ad, make sure you get written permission first.
This is especially true for social media content. Do not post client stories or pictures that have the client in them without explicit written permission. Otherwise, you risk massive fines and possibly even legal action.
Cultivate Good Reviews
One way you can manage your reputation while remaining HIPAA-compliant is by asking for good reviews. This seems like a very obvious and simple tactic, but you’d be surprised by how many doctors just don’t ask.
There are several ways to remind patients to review their experience with you. Small signs at the front desk, reminders on post-op paperwork, etc. But our favorite is through a post-appointment email drip campaign. Set up a trigger in your reputation management platform that automatically emails patients after they’ve completed a procedure.
The first email should be focused on their comfort and recovery. Ask them to contact you if they’re experiencing any side effects or have any questions. If there’s no response, have another email sent a week or two later letting them know you hope they’re well, and you’d appreciate a review of their experience.
It’s best to guide responses with a track system so that people who had a bad experience are sent straight to you and people who had a good experience are sent to Google or Facebook or whatever review platform you’re using. You can do this by asking “Did you have a good experience?” and linking two buttons underneath. “No” leads to your direct email or internal system and “Yes” leads to the review platform!
Often, bad reviews are a response to feeling unheard or neglected by a doctor. By using this system, you can directly solve your patient’s problems, improve their outcomes, and prevent one bad experience from damaging your reputation.
Knowing When to Flag a Review
While negative reviews can be frustrating and feel like a personal attack on you as a doctor, it is very important to know that you cannot remove reviews simply because they’re not favorable. Some platforms like Google will allow you to flag a review for consideration of removal if it meets certain criteria.
The following are the only reasons you should try to have a review removed:
- It contains advertising and/or spam
- It contains profanity
- It contains hate speech or threats of harm to the doctor
- It violates the privacy of the doctor, a staff member, or other patients
- It is for the wrong practice or doctor
- It contains illegal content
- It contains copyrighted content
Remember that, even if it’s painful, it is the truth of someone’s experience. And sometimes, you can actually build more trust with your audience by responding graciously and being transparent than you can by claiming to be perfect.
Be sincere. Apologize. Offer to make things right. Move on. If they still come at you after that, they end up looking like the party in the wrong, not you. And often, if you handle it well, you can ask a patient to amend or delete their review altogether once the problem is resolved.
Attend a Surefire Local Marketing Platform Demo
Send requests, automate follow-up reminders, and respond to reviews all from one place with the Surefire Local Marketing Platform! You can also use our patented software to run brand sentiment analyses and find out how your patients truly feel about your practice and fix the problems before they affect your reputation! To learn more about our solutions for reputation management for plastic surgeons, schedule a demo today!