Four Steps to Manage Your Healthcare Organization’s Reputation

The pandemic has sparked a new level of consumerism in healthcare. With review volume skyrocketing, it's time for healthcare organizations to take control of their online reputation. Here's how.

4 Steps to effectively deploy a reputation management strategy

Reputation management best practices

Over the past two years, our world has changed in dramatic and unexpected ways — and by necessity, so did consumer behavior. It’s now clear that the pandemic has sparked a new level of consumerism in healthcare that we have never seen before, and we are likely not to go back.

What does that mean, exactly? Well, in an era where almost every experience shifted to online-only (at least temporarily), patients and consumers have been trained to use digital channels across all industries, especially in retail. In particular, people have been searching for just about everything on Amazon and Google and on other sites, and during that process, they’ve consulted reviews at every stage of their purchase journey — and used those reviews to help them compare products.

Now, they are doing exactly the same thing when they search for healthcare.

The pandemic forever changed how healthcare organizations look at their providers: there was a realization that providers are also “products” of the health system. Healthcare organizations became able to control provider time, specialties, and conditions they treat, and they could start to see what the patient experience is with individual providers — all through the power of digital tools. It’s a novel consideration to think about your healthcare organization as a “retail” organization and the people within it as the products.

But it’s only natural that patients and consumers treat their healthcare experience just like they treat their shopping experience: through searching, evaluating and scheduling their care.

Here are a few review trends we’ve seen that illustrate the change we’re seeing in the reputation management space for healthcare:

  • Pandemic-related trends
  • Increased review volumes (rising by 131.7% during the pandemic!)
  • Increasingly negative reviews
  • Employee and staffing challenges (especially to manage reviews)
  • Patient Experience trends
  • More orgs are realizing how important it is to focus on the true experience - moving from patient not as a consumer to patient as a consumer
  • When people need to leave a review, they can do so on multiple places
  • Not just a one and done attitude any more

Providing feedback for an organization has changed, too. Organizations now have the opportunity to take immediate action derived from real-time insights and data. Historically, relying on HCAHPs survey results would take a long time to process — and they would deliver outdated insights to healthcare organizations. The proliferation of third party reviews like Google and WebMD, as well as newer survey administrators who can produce real-time HCAHPs analysis, have driven massive opportunities for healthcare organizations to change the way they are able to use data. They can now see data in real-time and perform service recovery – in real time. 

You can get that real-time feedback by making your review strategy focus on both first and third party data sources. And while many organizations are concerned about patients filling out too many surveys – “survey fatigue” – we are not seeing that this is the case. The response rate for HCAHPs surveys is falling (33% in 2008 vs. 26% in 2017), but we’re seeing a strong response rate for one-question third-party surveys (e.g., what you would use on Google) to be higher than the response rate for HCAHPS survey response rates.

It’s clear that managing your healthcare organization’s online reputation is more important than ever. Whether you are at the beginning of your reputation management journey or a digital veteran, here are four key strategies to help you succeed in the post-pandemic world.

4 Steps to effectively deploy a reputation management strategy:

1. Determine which entities you want to manage

For those just starting out, the concept of managing all reviews from all sources for all of your providers, departments, and facilities might feel overwhelming. Some organizations will start with everything, but others will decide to start with just facilities, or just a particular department (like Cardiology or Orthopedics). It’s a difficult decision to make, but you’ll want to consider the best approach to take — and then aim to build upon that approach over time.

To make this decision, bring together key stakeholders at your organization to determine which teams, practices, departments, and providers you want to manage. Forming a differentiated review management strategy will ultimately help you realize better ratings and more engagement with your reviews in the long run. 

2. Decide when and how you want to manage your reviews

As we mentioned above, there are many things you can do to manage your reputation and it’s not easy to bite off more than you can chew. We recommend taking a three-step process: monitor, respond, and/or generate them.

To monitor reviews:

We always recommend monitoring reviews before jumping into any other reputation management strategy. It’s important to know what the overall sentiment is across all of your reviews, as well as how often you are receiving feedback, before engaging with reviews or setting up a team to manage your reputation.

Determine who should have visibility into your reviews, and what type of access they should have. Set up permission and access controls so users have access only to see — and potentially respond to — the reviews they are privy to. 

If teams or members need to see certain types of reviews (negative reviews, reviews that contain certain keywords, etc.), set up notifications at any cadence that meet your specified criteria.

Lastly, set up a regular review cadence (weekly, bi-weekly or monthly) to check on the reviews you are monitoring. Note the following points:

  • Average review score (for your given time period). You can also break this down by department, provider type (e.g., cardiology, orthopedics, etc.), facilities, and more
  • Has the average review score gone up or down?
  • Positive and negative sentiment and key topic areas where you are doing well and need improvement

Responding to Reviews:

Once you’ve had an opportunity to monitor reviews and understand where you need to focus your energies, you should start to consider responding to reviews. Regularly responding to reviews has the potential to improve your search ranking — and it also shows the public that you pay attention to their comments.

Give some serious thought to who will be responsible for responding to reviews. You can set up a team to respond to reviews from a central team, or you can distribute review responses to different teams, practices or departments.

Some ideas for responsible stakeholders within your organization might include:

  • Your marketing team
  • Practice managers
  • Department chairs or admins
  • Individual providers

If your team doesn’t have the bandwidth to respond to reviews — and many organizations don’t — you can consider working with an outside partner to respond on your behalf using their expertise and best practices.

Then, whether you’ve decided to manage your review response strategy in-house or decided to engage with a partner to help you, it’s important to set your review response strategy. Questions you’ll need to consider include:

  • Will I need legal approval to respond to reviews or to use certain language in my responses?
  • Will we want to use Intelligent Review Response (IRR) or free form text to respond to individual reviews?
  • Will I use a template for every response or can I respond to each review individually based on the context of the review left?

Lastly, you’ll need to determine if you want to set up review response workflows — and if so, decide which teams need to oversee and approve responses before they hit the web so that everything runs smoothly. 

Review Generation - the last (and best) way to manage your reviews:

Once you’ve gotten a command over your review sentiment through review monitoring, and started responding to reviews, it’s now time for you to consider generating reviews. From our experience, we know that Yext customers who respond to their reviews receive an overall higher rating than those who do not. 

But what is the best way for your organization to send out review invitations for third party sites?

There are a few things to consider:

  • The easiest and fastest way to get started generating reviews is to regularly upload patient email and/or cell phone number into a generation platform. Once the upload happens, an invitation to leave a review is triggered. You can do this on a regular cadence (e.g., daily, weekly, monthly, etc.).
  • The more tech-savvy way to do this is to build an API between your data source (usually an EMR) and your review generation platform. This allows you to automate the process to generate reviews, as well as enables you to set certain parameters for sending invitations (e.g., review delays, only send reviews to certain patients, etc.). This process will require gaining the buy-in from your developer and/or IT teams and will take some time, but is definitely worth it in the long run
3. Define the goals of your reviews strategy up front so you can measure your success

Success will mean a lot of different things to different people in your organization. For example, leadership will likely want to see increased overall performance in one single dashboard or one-sheeter, while individuals at the local level will be interested in the reviews of their specific providers or departments.

In order to properly evaluate your strategy, it’s important to determine the reporting metrics that each team cares about — as well as the delivery method and cadence that best suits them. Flexible reporting and dashboard tools allow you to use pre-built reports, or you can create your own customized reports to see important metrics including response rate, response time, review count, average rating, and more, as well as the ability to export and share those results with anyone who needs to see.

(Note: Yelp data cannot be exported as Yelp’s rules and guidelines do not allow exporting of full-text Yelp data outside of any platform, including Yext. This is NOT exclusive to Yext – no Yelp partner can provide this functionality.)

Define your goals — increasing star-rating? Boosting clicks? —  and the corresponding metrics up front, so that everyone on your team understands what success looks like, and so you can ensure that you aren’t moving the goal posts as you work. 

4. Get everyone within your organization excited to implement this reputation management strategy

Even if you know you need a reputation management strategy, it can be a challenge to get everyone equally on board. Here’s a guide to why different roles within your organization — who might not typically buy into reputation management — actually have a significant stake in implementing it. 

a. Patient Experience

Reputation management helps you understand the real-time experience your patients are having with you – both inside and outside of your healthcare facility. Organic feedback tends to be rated lower than feedback that is proactively generated. Patient Experience has historically been focused on HCAHPs surveys, but as mentioned above, these tend to be lagging indicators of how you can drive a better patient experience. Third party reviews are typically left in the moment of frustration or delight, and your patient experience and marketing teams should be able to see and to use this data as soon as it becomes available.

Review volume has increased over 130% since the beginning of the pandemic, which has been crushing for organizations to try to manage.

Additionally, we know that people are looking at reviews more today than ever before. In a 2022 Patient Experience Survey, we found that 79% of patients rated that reviews were important or very important to selecting a provider (this is up from 70% in 2019). You have a responsibility to ensure that your providers have ample opportunities to show up in a positive light so that patients and consumers can choose them during the evaluation phase. 

You can help your patient experience team better understand the value of “better together” – to understand HCAHPs and third party reviews – as a comprehensive view of the consumer and patient experience, and can now work together to define ways to improve that experience.

b. Your IT department

If you’re working with a platform like Yext to develop your reputation management strategy, there are a variety of benefits for your IT department. This includes setting up automatic triggers from an EMR or CRM (like ETL or API, for example), as well as giving you analytics integrations into data visualization platforms. They are also likely involved in helping to build APIs into platforms in order to help with the review generation, and you want to be sure to get their help early on in your reputation management project.

c. Your healthcare providers

Why should healthcare providers care? Well, patients are leaving reviews – whether they like it or not – and at least with a reputation management strategy in place, you can help providers see what patients and consumers are saying, gain insights on ways to improve, and reaffirm what’s working for their practice, their department and your healthcare organization. 

A bonus? When you generate reviews instead of just passively receiving them, the feedback tends to be more positive!

Reputation management best practices

Ready to dive into a few more best practices? Here’s a list of the top three for monitoring, responding, and generating reviews — with some fun bonuses for Yext customers. 

  1. Create Sentiment Analysis Collections: While “sentiment analysis collections” sounds a bit complicated, this really just means that you should build groups of related keywords to track the overall sentiment of themes that you care about. Doing so gives you a better idea of what your consumers are talking about, as well as how your brand is doing in certain types of reviews on certain topics. For example, you could include groups like: COVID (covid-19, covid, covid19, mask, face mask, sanitized, hand sanitizer, etc), Patient Experience (staff, service, customer service, customer, customer care, staff member, etc), or Other groups related to (doctor, nurse, clinic, department(s), etc).
  2. Set up notifications to see negative reviews as they come in: If you’re monitoring reviews, it pays to set up notifications on the most important sites like Google and Facebook.
  3. Create dashboards to see important metrics: From rolling average rating to review distribution by time, make sure you can track key metrics and see how you compare to similar organizations, and more – and choose to view these reports on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis

Review Response Best Practices:

  1. Switch up your review response text assets: When you change your response text every 2-4 months, you can help keep responses fresh.
  2. Set up review notifications for negative reviews on main sites: Make sure you set up notifications on Google and Facebook so the appropriate person or team can respond to those reviews as quickly as possible – and it’s extremely important to prioritize responding to your negative reviews first.
  3. Create dashboards on important metrics: With Yext, you can create dashboards to see metrics like response rate, response time, keyword mentions, keyword sentiment, and more  – and choose to view these reports on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.

Review Generation Best Practices:

  1. Send out review invitations right away: You’ll get the best response if you invite patients to leave a review within 24 hours following the patient’s visit.
  2. Create dashboards for your departments and your professionals: To better evaluate performance, you can create reports to see the success of your reputation management strategy over time.