Chances are, patients are already talking about your medical practice on Yelp.com. Since it began in 2004, Yelp has garnered 108 million business reviews. And, Yelp reports that its health and medical reviews comprise 32% of its business. More people, in other words, consult Yelp than either Healthgrades or Rate MD. This means that, used correctly, Yelp should help your practice develop a good online reputation.
A Doctor’s Guide to Yelp
Yelp’s reviewing system can be challenging for healthcare providers. Like other review sites, Yelp doesn’t get a random sample of patients. This self-selection means that Yelp reviews tend to come from younger consumers. Also, Yelp’s filtering system is very specific. It tends to showcase repeat reviewers. If your best patients are not frequent Yelp reviewers, their reviews may not show. Even so, there are things that you can do to create a great presence on Yelp.
Claim Your Practice
Although a reviewer may have created a place for your business, as the owner you can claim it. This is a significant step. Unclaimed practices usually contain incorrect information, such as an old address, which is confusing to patients. By taking control of your profile, you can make sure that all the information is current.
Also, you can make sure your profile is in the right category and subcategory. If you are a primary care physician who works in geriatrics, make PCP your primary category and geriatrics your subcategory. This way, patients looking for you will be able to find you easily.
Create Your Profile
Create a profile that’s welcoming and appealing. Find the From the Business section of your profile. Write a short blurb highlighting your history and fields of specialization. This is what will draw customers to your business. Think about what separates you from other practices. Do you have short wait times? Treat a specific kind of patient? Have several convenient locations? These are the features to showcase in this section. Remember, on review sites patients tend to focus on wait times, accessibility, and patient satisfaction more than treatments.
Think about uploading a photo, too. People tend to stay on profiles with photos two and half times longer than on those without photos. Consider using a professional headshot, or a picture of your building, your cozy waiting room, or your state-of-the-art equipment. It’s important that the picture looks current, attractive, and professional.
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Respond to Yelp Reviews
Yelp’s rating system prioritizes reviews that are marked helpful. This means that a bad review can sometimes be more visible than six very good ones. To counter this, it’s important to manage your reviews. Respond to both good and bad reviews.
You can respond to good reviews by thanking the patient for the review. Or, you can mention other services that the patient may find useful (i.e. an upcoming flu-shot clinic). Be sure to avoid specifics about the patient to avoid potential HIPAA violations.
For bad reviews, it’s best to create a caring, public response. For example, if a patient complains about long wait times, you can regret the delay. You can point out how the office is working toward reducing wait times, and invite them to try again. Prospective patients don’t expect you to be perfect. But, they want to see that you are receptive to patients’ concerns and experiences. Try to answer respectfully. If you bicker with a reviewer, it will make you look petty. If a reviewer gives the practice an unfair, inaccurate or phony review, you can contact Yelp and try to get the review removed from the site.
By far the best way to handle a bad review is to try to correct the problem (for example by shortening waiting times). And then drown the bad review with positive reviews. Be sure to get good reviews without violating Yelp’s terms.
You Can Master Yelp
Yelp is such a popular tool, it is—for now—one of the main ways new patients and their families choose physicians. So dive in, take charge and use Yelp to your advantage. It can help you teach current and prospective patients about you and your practice. After all, it’s free marketing, and with a little effort, you can get awesome results!
Although Yelp is important, it is not the only website healthcare providers can use to improve their online reputation. Numbers show that patients still spend time on Facebook, so it makes sense for a clinic or practice to create and maintain a free Facebook profile. And don’t forget the tried-and-true Better Business Bureau website. It is still used by 10.2 million consumers per year to determine the legitimacy of a business.