The 5 Cs of Social Healthcare: Enhance Your Authenticity by Encouraging Conversations (Part II of a series)

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Encouraging patients to share their entire aesthetic journey with others provides more value for doctors than traditional post-procedure reviews. (Photo by Brian Smithson via flickr.)

At RealSelf, we often hear from doctors who say they have a hard time convincing patients to post reviews after their procedures. Frankly, we’re not surprised; after all, having completed their aesthetic journey, what incentive is there for a patient to take the time to write a post-procedure report?

Compare that to the non-stop stream of commentary that characterizes the Worth It Ratings section on RealSelf. People start talking about their procedures weeks and months before they actually have them; share their thoughts, fears and concerns throughout their journeys, and then pass on their impressions of their care after the fact.

There are thousands of people who are talking about providers and procedures right now, says Maureen Ezekwugo, EVP Doctor Community. One person starts posting about their situation and others make their decisions based on what they read.

For doctors, those conversations are like word of mouth on steroids. Encouraging potential patients to share their experiences from the beginning gets them speaking on your behalf and gets your name in front of others who are still weighing their options. Simply put, when 42% of patients say they receive most of their information about plastic surgery from social media, you can’t afford not to have a presence there.

None of which is to dismiss the value of post-procedure reviews. The problem is that the usual one-line reviews — “My doctor was great” or “I love my results” — don’t give potential patients the insights they need to make what may be among the biggest decisions of their lives.

Consumers have come to recognize that there are quality differences between providers and stars don’t tell the whole story, says Ezekwugo. If everybody gets 4 or 5 stars, how do they know they’re making the right decision? Increasingly, they look for transparency and authenticity.

And that’s exactly what patient stories provide. In that light, soliciting post-procedure reviews should be where your efforts to encourage conversations end, not where they begin.

Doctor Takeaways

1. Recognize that the conversation is ongoing whether you participate or not

Wishing doctor reviews would just go away is a waste of time. Today’s consumers read online reviews for virtually everything they purchase and doctors need to recognize the importance of those reviews or risk becoming invisible to the masses of prospective patients who read them.

2. Get the conversation going early in the process

It may sound odd to ask a prospective patient to “review” you before they’ve had a procedure but the fact is they’re already doing so when they post updates praising the time a doctor took during a consult or punishing another for not responding to an inquiry. Encouraging them to chronicle their entire journey makes for more informed, more confident patients and better outcomes for all concerned.

3. Get out of the star-rating trap

Asking patients to rate your services implies that it’s “all about you,” which is one reason patients have little incentive to write post-procedure reviews. It isn’t; it’s about them and how they felt about their experience. It’s also about giving back and helping others make good decisions, natural impulses that doctors can encourage with online forms and widgets that facilitate sharing.

4. Get help if you need it

While more doctors now recognize the importance of online reviews, some are justifiably frustrated by the challenge of getting patients to follow through. If that’s a concern, consider using one of the many companies that offer to handle the details of conducting satisfaction surveys, soliciting reviews and spreading them around the web.

About Rob Lovitt

Rob Lovitt is a longtime writer and editor who believes every good business has a great story to tell. He has written for dozens of magazines and websites, including NBCnews.com, Expedia.com and the inflight magazines of Alaska, Horizon and Frontier airlines.

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