Making the Most of Healthgrades by Christine Moore

Orthotown Magazine
by Christine Moore

During a day filled with appointments, procedures, follow-ups, consultations … and meetings … and office management … and maybe lunch (if you're lucky), it can be easy to think you don't have time to manage your online presence. But spending even just a few minutes managing your online profile can have a lasting impact on your practice—and your appointment book.

Healthgrades is the No. 1 site for consumers to connect with doctors, drawing 1 million visits a day from patients looking for providers. In an average year, consumers will make 1 billion doctor's appointments—and 276 million of those appointments will come through the Healthgrades platform.

With research showing that 84 percent of consumers check patient reviews before choosing a doctor, it's more essential than ever for orthodontists to leverage the tools available to market their practices and attract new patients.

For orthodontists or practice managers who may be new to Healthgrades—or for those looking to boost their current online presence—here are answers to some common questions about how the site works and how to maximize the benefits it can offer.

What Is Healthgrades?
Healthgrades is the leading site for patients to choose a doctor, connect with providers and manage their family's care. By providing consumers with a comprehensive selection of physicians, along with details about each provider, Healthgrades helps patients go beyond simply finding a doctor and instead find the doctor who's right for them.

Across web and mobile products, Healthgrades attracts 30 million visits a month, making it the top site for physician search, and the third-largest health information site. The Healthgrades audience is 70 percent female, with a $75,000 average household income, and 80 percent of users are commercially insured.

Healthgrades also draws consumers who are actively engaged with their health care: More than half of visitors make an appointment within one week—and they're twice as likely to do so for providers whose online profile is complete.

Does Healthgrades offer online appointment scheduling?
Online appointment scheduling is now available to all Healthgrades Premium providers.

In a recent Healthgrades survey, 80 percent of patients said they were more likely to choose a physician who offers online appointment scheduling over an identical provider who does not. And in separate research, consumers valued the convenience of online scheduling over the convenience of having a provider nearby, by more than two-to-one.

With the new Healthgrades website design, consumers can now search providers by appointment availability, including the ability to schedule online.

What information is listed on my profile?
For each provider, Healthgrades includes details to help consumers evaluate which doctors match their individual needs. Standard profile information includes:

  • Practice or office location
  • Specialty
  • Conditions treated
  • Procedures performed
  • Photo (if available)
  • Insurance accepted
  • Appointment availability

Healthgrades also gives providers the option to add a "care philosophy." This is an important component to add to your profile, because patients will often look beyond the facts and figures and instead focus on the personal connection they're seeking with a provider. Providers may want to explain why they got into medicine or what motivates them each day as they care for their patients.

If your profile does not already include a photo, adding a current picture can make a significant impact. For consumers, finding the right doctor is one of the most important choices they'll ever make. Help foster a personal connection right from the start with a clear, friendly photo, preferably a high-resolution head shot. By the time they come in for their appointment, patients will feel more familiar with you and be more at ease during your conversation.

What's Healthgrades Premium?
Orthodontists who upgrade to Healthgrades Premium benefit from enhanced tools and features, including elevated placement on search result pages and presenting their profiles as alternatives to other orthodontists in the same service area.

Premium members also receive an optimized profile design with a stronger focus on appointment scheduling, as well as dashboards and analytics, so they can see how their online profile is driving their business and which factors could be improved.

How do patients leave reviews on Healthgrades?
Patients can leave feedback on a provider profile in two ways. The first is a nine-question survey that asks patients to evaluate factors related to the provider (listens well, spends an appropriate amount of time with patients) and the office environment (staff friendliness, ease of scheduling urgent appointments).

The survey requires patients to rate the likelihood that they'd recommend the provider to their family and friends. This score is used to calculate the overall star rating that appears on the provider's profile.

Patients can also leave written reviews about their experiences that will appear next to their name and star rating on the provider's profile. According to Healthgrades research, when a provider's profile includes both ratings and written reviews, consumers are nearly three times as likely to make an appointment than when visiting a profile without ratings or reviews.

What does Healthgrades do to prevent patient survey fraud?
Healthgrades validates every patient survey. Once the patient submits a survey, it goes through several validation steps, including confirming the patient's email address and testing for spam. Once the source and content of the survey are validated, the survey is ready for posting to the provider's profile. If providers believe they have received a falsified survey, they can contact the company.

All reviews also are audited and must comply with Healthgrades editorial policy before they are posted to the site. Reviews that are vulgar, defamatory, unrelated to care received or otherwise discriminatory will not be posted to a provider's profile.

What if I see incorrect information on my profile?
Healthgrades data is licensed from publicly available sources, but ultimately the best source of information for your profile is you. Healthgrades allows providers or practice managers to register for a free account and update their own profiles. This can include adding up-to-date office locations, insurances accepted, appointment availability or procedures performed. By logging in, providers can also update or add a photo and provide a custom "care philosophy" statement.

What do I do about a negative survey that's dragging down my score?
Often the best strategy to counter a negative survey is simply to encourage more of your patients to complete their own surveys. The more surveys submitted, the less impact a single rating will have on your average survey score.

What do I say in response to a negative review?
Often, patients find value simply in being heard and acknowledged. By responding to reviewers, orthodontists have a chance to establish a genuine human connection—and possibly even to change the patient's perspective for the better.

Here are some recommended dos and don'ts when responding to the negative reviews:

DON'T respond immediately. Give yourself some time to let your emotions cool and write a reasoned reply.

DO thank the patient for providing feedback. Make a specific reference to the review, indicating you've actually read the patient's comments.

DON'T be defensive. Highlight your practice's strengths and the quality of care you strive to achieve. Apologize even if you believe you and your office did everything right: "I sincerely hope we may be able to win your favor again, because your experience does not at all reflect our standards of patient care."

DO be timely. A late response can hurt the effectiveness of your message. Healthgrades recommends replying within two weeks, maximum, but if possible, the sooner you can reply, the better.

DON'T let yourself become fixated on a negative review. You can't control the thoughts and opinions of your patients, even if you've put your best foot forward. Sometimes, a negative review can improve your service level or weed out patients who aren't the right fit for your practice. Also keep in mind that if a patient is being unreasonable in his feedback, other consumers will recognize it and discount

that person's criticism.

DO be willing to take the conversation offline, if necessary. This allows providers to discuss more specific details of the patient's case that they're unable to address online because of HIPAA restrictions. Offering the patient an email address where they can contact you directly promotes transparency and fosters trust in you and your practice.

What about negative reviews? How do I deal with those?
It's understandable for providers to have concerns about opening themselves up to negative reviews. However, this feedback provides a unique opportunity to cultivate a connection with patients and consider potential changes to improve your practice. To foster these relationships and increase transparency, providers can reply to patient feedback—following HIPAA guidelines—within their online profile by submitting a single text response to each patient review.

Should I also respond to positive reviews?
Absolutely! Responding to all reviews generates goodwill and extends the care experience beyond the exam room. Thank patients for their positive feedback and let them know you appreciate their trust in the care you provide. You can also take this opportunity to acknowledge your staff for any positive comments made specifically about them.

How do I get my patients to leave a review for me on Healthgrades? At the end of your appointments, ask patients for their initial feedback. This provides you an immediate opportunity to address negative experiences directly and keep that criticism offline. Encourage satisfied patients to post their positive feedback on your profile, without being pushy. Increasing your number of positive reviews will help offset the negative.

Healthgrades also offers providers the ability to print customized cards to hand out as patients leave. These cards can be used as appointment reminders, and they include the direct Healthgrades link where patients can submit a survey to your profile. Providers or practice managers can print these cards for free via their Healthgrades account.

Investing even just a half-hour each week to respond to patient reviews and maintain your Healthgrades profile can significantly amplify your ability to attract new patients and increase loyalty and word-of-mouth among your current ones. Your Healthgrades profile can be the pebble that produces a ripple effect of increased appointments, improved quality of care, and heighted awareness of your practice. Whether you use one Healthgrades feature or all of them, don't overlook the opportunity to take advantage of this powerful—and free!—marketing tool.

Author Christine Moore is a senior health editor for Healthgrades, a partner of Sesame Communications. Moore develops and edits monthly content covering a diverse range of health topics. Before joining Healthgrades, Moore worked at Cartoon Network Digital as a writer, producer and associate creative director. A graduate of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism, she lives with her husband and son in Decatur, Georgia.
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