By Greg Barr
There is a new trend that has arisen in the medical field that has been taking doctors by surprise last few years: they are going broke. Roughly half of the doctors in the nation are running their own private practice, with many of them struggling to stay afloat.
Rising business and drug costs, along with ever-changing regulations and smaller insurance reimbursement have all contributed to the difficulties of maintaining a private practice.
The most important thing physicians can do now is to continue to provide quality care to their customers, ensuring their loyalty. This would give them the best possible opportunity to maintain their success and grow as a practice. There is so much information available now surrounding various doctors and their clinics; it is relatively easy to find the right doctor that fits your needs. If a doctor were to lose his or her practice, it would send their customer base scrambling to find a new physician.
The Internet has changed the way people find their doctors, with about 80-90% of users going online first to search for healthcare information. This is often for themselves, but also for others such as the elderly who are less likely to be searching out and trying new doctors. According to the Pew Research Center, 16% of internet users have consulted online rankings or reviews of doctors or other service providers.
With so much instability currently surrounding the economy and industry, there is one thing that doctors can protect: their online reputations. Negative reviews and comments online do not go away and can be a huge deterrent in keeping new patients away. The major problem underlying these comments and reviews is that they often portray a skewed view of how the majority of a doctor’s patients feel. Either the patient was completely and totally enthralled with the doctor, or happened to have a bad experience and needed to vent.
Managing your reputation on the Internet is imperative, and not doing so can drastically cut into profits. Results from a study conducted by Cone Inc. indicate that nearly 80% of consumers change their mind about which product to purchase after they have read a single negative review. With so many people possibly being turned away, it is not worth having negative comments be easily visible or apparent to potential clients.
The good news is that something can be done to help prevent this. It is possible to take control of what is being said about you, and also control what is seen when being searched for. By putting positive press and information online, one can dilute or hide the negative comments. Adding personal profiles to social media websites such as Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, and Twitter can all create a positive presence that you can control. Along with this, blogs can help keep patients informed or updated about your practice or research.
Doctor’s can go about doing this in two ways. Either they can take matter’s into their own hands by spending their own time creating a more positive online presence, or they can hire one of the many online reputation management companies that have arisen to combat this problem. These companies have methods in place to create positive press and hide the negative comments. They ensure that these negative comments or feedbacks are suppressed and can control the results seen on search engines through search engine optimization.
This service has been listed as one of the top new online marketing trends to watch in 2012, and its importance is just starting to be recognized by businesses across the country. Whether one starts controlling their online presence or not is up to them, but seeing negative reviews online creates an opportunity for doctors regardless. They should able to find ways to address the feedback and connect with and care for their patients better. This would help create a better practice and ensure that patients keep coming back, whether they are new patients or long time visitors.
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Fox, Susannah; The Social Life of Health Information, 2011. Pew Internet Research Center; May 12, 2011http://pewinternet.org/Reports/2011/Social-Life-of-Health-Info/Summary-of-Findings/Section-1.aspx accessed 1/12/12
Kavilanz, Parija; Doctors Going Broke. CNNMoney.com, Small Business. 1/6/12. http://money.cnn.com/2012/01/05/smallbusiness/doctors_broke/index.htm?hpt=hp_t3&hpt=hp_c1 accessed 1/12/12
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