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Hidden Connection: How Online Reviews Impact Patient Retention

Here's everything you need to know about how online reviews impact patient retention—and how that use affects your clinic.

Erica McDermott
5 min read
February 28, 2018
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While your current patient retention strategies may center on improving the patient experience—and that’s certainly the best place to start—you may also want to consider upping your online review game. That’s because a plethora of positive online reviews can actually set the tone for the entire patient experience, winning you more new patients and helping you keep the ones you already have. Plus, even critical online reviews can be a valuable source of information you can use to further improve the patient experience. To capitalize on this strategy, though, you first must understand how patients use online reviews—and how that use affects patient retention:

Online reviews bring new patients in the door.

As WebPT’s Kylie McKee wrote in this post, “One of the most common searches for patients looking for PTs online is ‘top rated physical therapists near me.’” According to McKee, that means patients are looking for more than general PT providers in their area; they’re looking for the therapists other patients have vouched for online. And the same goes for OTs and SLPs. In other words, patients are looking for social proof. To ensure you’re showing up in your prospective patients’ searches, beef up your online reputation by first providing an excellent patient experience—and then asking your happy, loyal patients to write about their experience with your clinic online. (To learn more great strategies for enhancing your online presence—and ensuring you’re findable online—check out this free webinar hosted by WebPT’s director of lead generation and VP of marketing).

NPS® can help.

But, how can you tell which patients are happy and loyal—and what can you do about the ones who aren’t? Net Promoter Score® (NPS) tracking is a super-simple method—really, it involves asking just one question—for gauging your patients’ loyalty. Add in a text box to collect more detailed patient feedback, and you’ll be able to not only easily identify which patients are loyal, but also act on meaningful data to make the improvements necessary to convert your less-than-pleased patients into happy ones and thus, prevent patient dropout.

Online reviews help patients choose the right provider—for them.

Online reviews also help prospective patients establish a baseline in terms of what they can expect when they come to a new provider’s office—and that includes everything from the parking situation, the friendliness of the front-office staff, and the comfort of the reception area to the involvement of therapist assistants, the therapists’ clinical knowledge, and the quality of the home exercise program. Prospective patients can then use this information to help them select providers who align with their needs and care philosophy.

As you well know, not every provider is going to be right for every patient (and vice versa). And given how important the patient-provider relationship is, it only makes sense that when patients and providers are a good match for one another, patients are much more likely to complete their plans of care, achieve positive outcomes, and share their positive experiences with friends and family. That’s good for the patient, the provider, and the reputation of the rehab therapy industry at large.

Online reviews help providers understand what their patients value.

By keeping tabs on the most popular patient review sites—like Yelp, Google, and Healthgrades—you’ll be able to not only respond to negative reviews in a timely manner, but also get a better understanding about the things that matter most to your patients. For example, if numerous patients are discussing the intangibles of their experience—in addition to the quality of the clinical care they’re receiving—then you know that developing your practice’s culture around a value system that supports those qualities is crucial. If speedy, accurate billing—or the lack thereof—is mentioned frequently, then you know patients prioritize smooth payment processing. That, in turn, may encourage you to develop new billing-related content or hire additional billing personnel to assist you.

You’ll also be able to get a sense of a new patient’s expectations—which you can use to ensure that you’re not only meeting those expectations, but also exceeding them. After all, satisfied patients are significantly more likely to stick around than those who feel like their experience is anything less than what they expected based on the reviews they read.

Online reviews are, quite simply, another source of valuable information that you may not be able to get from your patients directly. Savvy providers can use that information—whether it’s positive or negative—to better understand their patients and improve the overall patient experience. And that’s the best way to keep your patients coming back. Looking for more great advice on improving patient retention? Be sure to check out this free webinar on knocking out patient dropout.


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