Why is patient feedback important to doctors? Let me tell you a story. Dr. Jamel McDuffie DDS has been providing quality dental services to clients in Durham, North Carolina, for many years. His practice, McDuffie Dentistry, had happy customers, who were also their regulars. 

Dr. McDuffie had a limited staff and a busy schedule, which meant that it was not a sustainable solution to follow up with each patient personally. Since McDuffie Dentistry only had a few online reviews, which were left by customers who wanted to vent, their online reputation wasn’t as good as it should be. They were ranking below their local competitors. What the medical practice needed was an easy way to send review requests and receive patient feedback — easily. Birdeye to the rescue. 

With the help of Birdeye’s automated review generation process, among other products offered, McDuffie Dentistry was able to see a whopping 994% increase in their reviews. They had a 4.4-star rating, which rose to a fantastic 4.9-star rating within a year. With all these positive reviews flowing in, they rose to the top five search results for ‘Dentists in Durham’. This means more customers for McDuffie! Isn’t that just fantastic? 

In this blog post, we will cover the following topics related to patient feedback:

Why do doctors need patient feedback?

Let’s get real. A decade ago you asked a friend or family member for a recommendation, but today the search for a doctor begins online. Research suggests that over 84% of people now read online reviews before choosing a doctor (Inc.com). Not just that – more than half of patients will not even consider a practice that has negative patient feedback. So, turning your existing customers into regulars or gaining new patients, requires building up a strong online reputation.

In addition to increased revenue for your practice, good patient experience also helps your patients recover. In 2015, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services analyzed data from over 3,000 US hospitals. They found that better patient experience translated into favorable clinical outcomes. You can only make your patient experience better with increased patient feedback.

In this article, we’ll discuss some of the benefits that patient feedback can have on your practice.

Reviews are recommendations, really

The first step to a strong online reputation is asking patients for reviews. So how do you get positive reviews? By asking every patient for feedback, reading all that feedback, and taking action based on patient feedback to improve the patient experience.

Patients use both, healthcare-oriented review sites like RateMDs and Vitals, and general review platforms like Google and Facebook. If that sounds like a lot, let me tell you that’s only some of it — your patients might be saying good or bad things about your practice on websites you aren’t even aware of. This can drive away potential customers who are searching for good quality medical services online. Make sure that you are listening to reviews coming from all places and you are responding and acting on it as well. 

When you go online to find out information about a medical practice, you want to read authentic accounts of current patients. It’s simple: the more patients you ask, the more reviews you get. More reviews mean more social proof to attract prospective patients. Let your patient’s feedback be a testimony to your practice’s high-quality patient care. Not to mention, more reviews only means that any negative reviews you might receive have less impact on your overall rating.

Use messaging to build a credible online reputation

Decisions are made quickly. Imagine this: You are on a doctor/medical practice’s Facebook page during working hours (which, along with all other details, are listed correctly and up to date). You want to know if they can see you at 10 am tomorrow. You message them on Facebook Messenger. Within a few minutes you get a reply that yes, they do have a window available. Would you like to confirm the appointment? 

Chances are that most patients would say — YES. This experience tells your patients that you are available, you care, and that you want to make it as easy as possible for them to come to you. 

You can greatly enhance the credibility of your medical practice by being connected via messaging. With Birdeye, you can keep all your interactions with patients in one place. Whether it is a patient trying to get in touch with you on Facebook Messenger or questions coming in via Webchat — being unresponsive means losing customers to competitors. Being available to quickly answer questions on appointment availability or a follow-up question will greatly increase the patient experience. 

Positive feedback means more visibility on Google search

Review signals have a significant impact on your search engine ranking. Search engines prioritize websites with more frequent activity and fresh, organic content. This is exactly what new reviews are. Unless you want to spend many hours every day writing authentic, new blog content with relevant keywords that potential patients would like to read, reviews are the way to go. 

Even then, Google places a higher value on User-Generated Content over content created by the business. Simply put, the more reviews you have, the higher the search ranking your business can expect. 

While responding to your patients, remember to follow HIPAA guidelines. The guidelines state that the healthcare provider should respect the patient’s privacy, avoid disclosing the patient’s issue or photos online and take critical issues offline. 

Feedback helps you build strong relationships with patients

Everyone wants to know that their doctor is listening to them and is taking personal care. So, think of patient feedback as the start of a conversation and make each conversation count. Think of feedback as a constructive comment to help you serve your patients better. 

There is more to a positive review than 5 stars. Pay attention to the text in reviews. Understand what exactly makes your patients happy so you can keep providing it. If you are hearing that a particular employee makes the whole experience enjoyable, reward your staff. If you are hearing that the new appointment system is really working, take a bow. 

Likewise, negative reviews, although frustrating initially, are extremely valuable if you take action. If your patient didn’t bring the issue to your attention, you might never have known and it might have occurred many more times, steering other patients away. When you take meaningful action to rectify a patient’s complaint, you have the chance to win back their trust. 

Think about this: You have a couple of patients mentioning that the healthcare service was great but the music in the lobby area is loud and unpleasant. There is a simple fix to this problem. You can easily make the patient’s experience of visiting your medical practice better. And you also have the chance to let your customers know that you are listening to their complaints. 

Use surveys to answer your specific questions

Successful medical practices constantly try to get better. In order to know what you should fix, you need to know what is working and what isn’t. There is a simple way of doing this: send your patients surveys. With Birdeye you can send custom surveys from a single dashboard that also helps you gain insights into the data you’ve received. Use the feedback you receive to make necessary changes.  

Using surveys also lets your patients know that you want to keep the channels of communication open. Analyze the survey results to spot trends across time and departments. If a couple of things score consistently low across a wide pool of patients, you need to look into that right away. 

Whether it is a standard or a pick-one survey, these surveys will give you valuable insight into your patient’s experience. Use the results to make their experience even better next time.

Why your medical practice needs to collect patient feedback constantly

Earning a 5-star rating from a high volume of reviews is great, but that doesn’t mean you can just sit back and stop caring about patient feedback. Research states that most patients consider reviews older than three months to be irrelevant — so if all your reviews are from last year, many prospective patients might disregard your high rating altogether and choose a competitor with more recent reviews.

As mentioned earlier in this article, patient feedback is also critical to preserving patient loyalty. Patient expectations evolve constantly. So, a continuous stream of incoming feedback helps you stay informed with what your patients want from their healthcare provider.

For a busy practice devoting all their time to caring for patients, consistently collecting feedback from every patient might sound daunting. The good news is that there are solutions on the market that make the whole process easy and automatic. Birdeye, for example, lets you ask patients for feedback, respond to every comment, question, and review from one place, and share success stories to your social media pages — with just a click.