If you’ve been reading the WebPT Blog for any amount of time, you’ve most likely come across a post or two about the importance of cultivating a plethora of positive online reviews. After all, online reviews provide prospective patients with the social proof they may need to choose your practice over another. They also set a baseline for the patient experience—and help improve your findability online. While you could certainly glean a ton of great benefits from simply collecting online reviews and letting them be, you can also leverage them to expand and extend their impact. Here’s how (adapted from this Physicians Practice article):

1. Use them to identify trends.

It’d be great if your patients felt comfortable sharing their honest, critical feedback with you face-to-face; that way, you’d have the opportunity to remedy the situation immediately. Unfortunately, most of us don’t feel comfortable sharing our grievances directly, and it is often easier to be honest with a little distance. That’s what makes online reviews a fantastic source of actionable data. Task someone in your office with regularly reviewing, responding to, and tracking trends on the most popular online review sites (e.g., Yelp, Google, and Healthgrades). That way, you’ll not only be able to reply directly to patients about specific concerns—or compliments—you’ll also be able to identify common themes that may point to larger issues in need of your attention. For example, if numerous reviews speak to long wait times or a less-than-friendly front-office staff, then coaching on interpersonal relations and time management may be in order.

2. Republish them on your website—or in an ad.

People rarely go past the first page of a Google search—or the first page of an online review site. So, if you have several stellar reviews that have already been buried beneath a mound of others, you may be able to republish the reviews in full—or highlight portions of them—on your website or in an ad. Just be sure that you adhere to fair use copyright laws or get written permission from the reviewer—and that you’re not violating any of the terms of the review site. (When in doubt, always reach out to a copyright attorney.)

As Alex Mangrolia, the author of the above-cited Physicians Practice article, wrote, “Choose the feedback that talks about the benefits of your services. Ideally, the feedback should explain how precisely the patient benefited from your services.” And if you find a review that favorably compares your services to those of a competitor, “you have hit gold,” Mangrolia said.

3. Include testimonials in your marketing materials.

According to Mangrolia, “Using online reviews to influence the opinion of potential leads is one of the best ways to attract more patients to your practice.” That’s the element of social proof I mentioned earlier. While your words can surely influence a prospective patient’s decision to select your practice, you’re clearly biased; thus, your words won’t hold as much weight as those of a patient’s peers. So, Mangrolia suggests that providers incorporate patient testimonials into newsletters, emails, and other marketing materials (like e-books). But, he emphasizes the importances of doing so “tactfully.” In other words, be sure the testimonials you’re including are relevant to the other valuable material you’re sharing—and that they appear “organic.” Sending blatantly salesy content may very well cause your patients to unsubscribe from your lists. “You can send targeted newsletters and emails with relevant reviews that focus on specific treatments or services,” Magnolia said.

4. Share positive reviews on social media.

Social media is a wonderful channel to connect with prospective and current patients alike. So, as long as you’re adhering to HIPAA guidelines (as well as the copyright laws and review site terms mentioned above), Mangrolia suggests sharing “positive reviews with your followers”—given that “social media networks such as Facebook and Instagram are relevant to your practice,” that is. And we all know that in today’s healthcare landscape, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter may all be relevant to your patients—which means they should be relevant to your practice, too. Regardless of the social media channel, though, you also “must thank the reviewer for providing the feedback,” Mangrolia wrote. “This will not only help you attract new patients, but will also boost your brand image across social channels.”

Even if your patient base is comprised of mostly elderly patients, it’s still a good idea to collect and leverage online patient reviews. As we explained here, “While it’s true that the senior population may not use the Internet to research healthcare options as much other generations do, many of their younger caregivers and potential referral sources do.” Thus, regardless of whether you’re treating baby boomers, millennials, or anyone in between, optimizing your online presence by boosting the number and quality of your online patient reviews is a must.

Looking for a super simple way to collect online reviews from your already-pleased patients? Check out WebPT Reach—EMR-integrated patient relationship management software that automates the online review collection process based on patient loyalty.