3 steps to Manage Google Reviews Better for your Healthcare Clinic

An important element of your medical clinic’s online reputation is review management.

And an essential part of review management is Google reviews – part of Google My Business. Google My Business is a free tool that helps you attract and engage patients searching online for your clinic or a service related to the treatments your clinic offers. Reviews on Google My Business appear next to your business listing on Google Search and Google Maps and can help your practice to stand out from your competitors.

When patients are looking for a health practitioner, the majority read online reviews to help them make an informed decision. In fact according to online booking software provider HotDoc, it was found that it was found that 54% of Australian patients check a clinic’s Google reviews prior to choosing them. Not only that, 77% were more likely to book with a clinic with 4-5 stars.

So, how do you get more 5-star reviews on Google, especially when you’re in the healthcare industry and subject to some very strict laws?

Let’s delve in.

 

1. Provide the 5-star experience

To get positive reviews on Google, you need to provide a positive patient experience. What makes a patient (or any customer) want to share a 5-star review about your business? A five-star experience of course!

A 5-star experience means going above and beyond so patients are more inclined to ‘sing your praises’ publicly. This can mean offering a ‘wow’ experience or cultivating a following of loyal, satisfied patients who have a good rapport with practitioners.

Here’s some suggestions from patients that contribute to a positive clinic experience:

  • Patients feel ‘listened to’
  • Practitioners are caring and compassionate
  • Appointment run on time – or estimated waiting times are given
  • Use of technology to make life easier (not more difficult)
  • Convenient opening hours (perhaps offering early morning, weekend and/or evening options)
  • Simple online booking process
  • Clean, modern and welcoming clinic
  • Easy access / parking

There is some debate around whether going above and beyond is enough these days. In some industries, being ‘delighted’ by the customer experience is becoming the norm and no longer something special, in fact customers expect it.

According to models expert Simon Bowen, to truly serve your customer and be deserving of being chosen (and raved about) your customers need to feel a level of safety with you, that you’ve got their back so to speak. Definitely something to consider.

So… once you’ve got your patient experience on point, it’s time to set the scene – and make the ask.

You need a verified Google My Business account to get Google reviews. If you don’t have one, learn more in our article the Ultimate guide to Google My Business.

2. Ask for Google reviews

While reviews in healthcare are a taboo topic and many healthcare professionals are reluctant to even discuss review acquisition, reviews have a place when done right. It comes down to choosing an approach that feels comfortable (perhaps after a discussion with your legal advisor).

AHPRA states “reviews (i.e. feedback about healthcare experiences that does not refer to clinical aspects of care) in advertising are allowed”. 

You can read more in AHPRA’s testimonial tools here. To achieve more Google reviews for your healthcare practice, ask your patients to review their experience – but to keep things simple, don’t reproduce any of those reviews on your website.

AHPRA’s tool indicates you are allowed to use reviews that don’t relate to clinical services, e.g. reviews that talk about things like: 

– Friendliness of your reception team
– Ease of parking
– Cleanliness and atmosphere of your waiting room
– On-time appointments

Here’s an example of an ‘allowed’ review:

 

The tool is also very clear that you are not allowed to use reviews in your advertising that relate to the clinical experience, e.g: 

– Their symptoms or reason for their appointment
– The diagnosis or treatment
– The outcome of the treatment
– The skills or experience of the treating practitioner

Here’s examples of reviews that are prohibited under National Law:

 

With your Google My Business profile, you can’t actually control the content of reviews that you receive.
The key here, is never to reply to a review that discusses clinical aspects. Alternatively, you could use a standard review reply to every review, that neither confirms or denies the reviewer is a patient, but politely explains that due to privacy and national medical board regulations, you cannot reply or invite discussion in a public forum.

How to make the review request? 

It’s time to think about your method for collecting reviews. There are many different methods available to request reviews, from comprehensive paid tools to sending an email, SMS or in person. Your team should work out a process that feels comfortable while also being easily repeatable so you have your reviews coming in on tap. If you are a HotDoc customer, you could look into HotDoc Reviews. There’s some great case studies of practices who have already benefitted from this brilliant feature.

 

3. Reply to Google reviews

Replies to reviews are considered an extension of your brand and are an indication to patients reading your reviews that you listen to patient feedback.

How you handle negative reviews in particular is very important.

Key points to remember when addressing a negative review:

  • Keep your response short and succinct
  • Stay calm and polite
  • Keep emotion out of the equation
  • Respond promptly
  • Invite them to resolve the problem offline by getting in touch with you via phone or email, provide the contact info to make it easy
  • Never confirm their identity or the treatment they had
  • Don’t pick out specific points in their complaint and write a detailed defence argument

RACGP weighs in on this topic and suggests if you think a review raises a legitimate point and it’s worthwhile addressing it, then it could be useful to respond.  It’s important for all practitioners to avoid responding to reviews that discuss clinical issues though, to ensure you don’t unintentionally breach Privacy Law or National Law.

Also, let’s be honest about the fact that there are some cases when a negative review does not warrant any response at all. Only your team can decide the legitimate complaints vs those that are not worth your time and effort.

But let’s remember the key principals here that differentiate healthcare businesses from most other industries – you cannot confirm by your reply:

  • the identity of your reviewers
  • whether or not they actually attended your practice
  • or any specifics about their appointment.

Key Takeaway

Your Google reviews star rating (and overall vibe of the comments) are a critical component when it comes to the success of your clinic. Despite the many laws around the use of reviews in healthcare advertising, they do have an important role in your online marketing. The key is keeping it simple, educating your patients and adhering to AHPRA regulations.

 

Action Step

Before embarking on a review campaign, seek advice from your legal advisor. While the above is our interpretation of the AHPRA regulations based on the testimonial tool and examples of advertising that has and has not complied with the National Law, this information is for guidance only and does not replace independent legal advice. Every clinic has a different comfort level when it comes to how they interpret the guidelines. You need to find an approach that works for you.

 

Sources:

https://www.healthcareit.com.au/article/survey-reveals-what-patients-really-want-doctors

https://www.medicaleconomics.com/view/becoming-ideal-doctor-what-do-your-patients-really-want

https://practices.hotdoc.com.au/blog/consulting-room-patient-experience/improve-the-consulting-room-patient-experience