Critical resource or just critical? Tips for docs to deal with Yelp’s fortified UGC.

Lori Bahnmueller 08/06/15 - 8:01 pm

If user-generated content has been giving doctors’ headaches, Yelp’s new partnership with ProPublica might be migraine-inducing.

Yelp is working with the investigative online newsroom to bolster its user-generated content by folding in ProPublica’s healthcare statistics and placing it onto the Yelp business pages of more than 25,000 medical treatment facilities.

So in addition to sifting through consumer reviews about cranky office staff and marathon waiting room sessions, Yelp users will see objective data about how the physician’s practice compares to their peers. Hover text on the business page will explain the statistics, like the number of serious deficiencies and fines per nursing home and emergency room wait times for hospitals.

“Now the millions of consumers who use Yelp to find and evaluate everything from restaurants to retail will have even more information at their fingertips when they are in the midst of the most critical life decisions, like which hospital to choose for a sick child or which nursing home will provide the best care for aging parents,” said Yelp’s CEO.

The American Medical Association (AMA) offers a second opinion.

“Online opinions of physicians should be taken with a grain of salt, and should certainly not be a patient’s sole source of information when looking for a new physician,” an AMA rep said in a statement about online review sites. “Choosing a physician is more complicated than choosing a good restaurant, and patients owe it to themselves to use the best available resources when making this important decision.”

Still, consumers like user-generated content. A lot.

Online consumer reviews are second only to earned media as the most trusted form of advertising (Nielsen). Seventy percent of global consumers surveyed online said they trust this platform.

Schadenfreude much?

Physicians aren’t likely to get any sympathy from restaurants, retailers, banks, insurance companies, and other services and brands that have been shouldering online reviews for years. Bad online reviews have been blamed for everything from business blips to bankruptcy. Victims have responded with demands, threats and lawsuits, often inadvertently boosting the popularity of the negative review along the way. Rarely have protests led to the removal of bad reviews. (Thank you, First Amendment.)

So, how should the healthcare industry respond to user-generated content? The same way doctors have been treating patients for decades, proactively.

Take your medicine

Criticism is tough; anonymous griping is worse. Still there may be some truth to what your detractors are saying. While you shouldn’t overreact, you should take notice. One complaint might save your practice thousands of dollars. Consider the root of the problem and attempt to solve it. If your office staff comes off unprofessional or uncaring, take action. Make sure everyone is on brand, employing the values that you’ve built your practice upon.

Tell it to me straight, doc

If possible, contact the patient directly about their concerns. If it’s about their medical care, the doctor should connect with them. If it’s an administrative issue, the matter might be better handled by the office manager. Your goal should be to solve the problem, and ideally convert a critic into an advocate.

Take a pulse

Keep an eye on news surrounding your practice and the healthcare industry overall. Set Google alerts for your practice and your staff. Respond quickly to good and bad reviews. Conduct short- and long-tail keyword searches regularly around your business and areas of expertise so that you’re not taken by surprise.

Doc, what’s your opinion?

You’re an expert on a subject that most consumers dwell upon regularly, their health. Create regular content on your website by blogging about your specialty. Invite patients to subscribe to your blog. In addition to building credibility and loyalty with your patients, you’ll strengthen SEO and pull more traffic to your site.

If you have the bandwidth, consider social media for your practice. It’s a great way to coach and connect with patients on a regular basis, popping up in their newsfeeds to dispense healthy tips and sound advice. (Take a look at this blog for social proof.)

Stop picking at it

You don’t need to review the complaint more than once, so don’t visit the consumer site again. And do not send the complaint to anyone. Print it out instead. The more you interact with consumer opinion sites–and that includes visiting the page–the more popular the post becomes.

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