Case Study: Managing Online Reputation in a Healthcare Setting

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NovaMerchant: Nova Medical Group
Location: Northern Virginia
Size: 4 Locations
Platforms: Demandforce, CriticMania, Binary Fountain
The Bottom Line: Online reputation management is becoming increasingly important within the healthcare community.

The days when a family physician could expect to grow a general practice through referrals and word-of-mouth alone are numbered. As the healthcare industry evolves, it’s becoming increasingly common for physicians to utilize hyperlocal tools for both patient acquisition and retention.

As the public relations director at Nova Medical Group, one of the largest integrative primary care practices in Northern Virginia, Melanie Schmidt is responsible for spearheading the group’s digital marketing initiatives. Nova Medical Group currently maintains three separate websites, each highlighting a different specialty or service, along with a patient portal and profiles on social networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Google+. Schmidt works with hyperlocal vendors like Demandforce, CriticMania, and Binary Fountain on patient acquisition and retention efforts.

“We’ve been really trying to watch our online reputations. How do we better manage that? Because obviously, you can’t believe everybody. Especially in a healthcare setting, when you have someone who may be angry or didn’t get prescribed a drug,” says Schmidt. “A lot of times those people are going on Yelp and writing negative things.”

One of the ways Schmidt manages the practice’s online reputation is with Demandforce. Nova Medical Group’s spa, Medical Spa at Nova, uses the Demandforce for scheduling and email marketing. At the end of every appointment, patients receive an email asking for feedback. After filling out the provided questionnaire online, patients are encouraged to write a review publicly, which is then blasted out to multiple review websites. “It’s huge that we can push out to these review sites. That, in itself, is definitely worth investing in software like this,” says Schmidt.

Schmidt has also started using Binary Fountain to survey patients while they’re still in-house at the end of every medical appointment. Tablets are placed at Nova Medical Group’s checkout desks, and patients are asked to rate their visits on a 10-question questionnaire. “We used to have kiosk questionnaires and nobody wanted to take the time to do that,” says Schmidt. “The fact that we do put them on a tablet, people love playing with those. You hand someone a tablet, and they’re all ‘Oh yes, please.’”

Patients are also asked to include contact information on their Binary Fountain questionnaires, and this information is used for subsequent email marketing efforts. In addition to seeing trends in patient ratings, Schmidt can also see any comments or reviews that patients have posted on sites like Facebook, HealthGrades, Vitals, and Twitter.

During their in-office appointments, patients are encouraged to use a platform called CriticMania to submit complaints or issues to Schmidt’s office in real-time. “We have table tends in our patient waiting room. It touches the patient before they get on a review site. It allows them to text me right away,” says Schmidt. “CriticMania has definitely been valuable in managing our online reputation and patient satisfaction.”

Staying on top of the latest digital marketing trends is imperative for a healthcare practice like Nova Medical Group. Schmidt says her team scouts out new vendors at medical conferences, and then schedules one-on-one meetings with representatives from the vendors they’re most interested in working with. “I do a lot of demos with these different software companies, and we get different quotes,” says Schmidt.

In the coming year, Schmidt has plans to develop two new websites for Nova Medical Group, along with a mobile app for patients. She believes it’s becoming increasingly important for medical groups to stay on top of online review sites, and says all-in-one vendors that bring multiple tools or features into one dashboard are especially useful.

The Takeaway
Using multiple customer satisfaction platforms simultaneously gives Nova Medical Group every chance possible to reach patients—and resolve any issues or complaints—before negative reviews are posted on sites like Yelp and HealthGrades. As patients continue to do more research online when deciding which physicians to visit, it is going to become increasingly important for medical groups to utilize hyperlocal tools for resolving patient complaints and managing their reputations online.

Stephanie Miles is an associate editor at Street Fight.

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Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.