Alan Ayers on Urgent Care Online Reputation Management and Improving Patient Experience [Q&A]

Get this: 72% of patients use online reviews as their first step in finding a new physician. I can't stress enough the importance of patient reviews for physicians and every single urgent care center (big or small) and how it can propel their growth. And, this directly affects their online reputation.

A proactive approach in managing patient reviews is all the more crucial and to get a better explanation on this, we had an amazing Q and A session with Alan Ayers, who is a well-known figure in the urgent care community.

He is also the Vice President of Strategic Initiatives for Practice Velocity, LLC. He has more than 10 years of experience in strategic planning, business development, clinical operations, and sales/marketing and real estate for urgent care, occupational medicine and primary care facilities of all sizes.

Here's Alan sharing his opinion on how urgent care can manage their online reputation more efficiently and improve patient experience.

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Ajay: Do you believe that online reputation of an urgent care center directly affects a patient's opinion towards it? If yes, how should they improve it?

Alan: Word-of-mouth marketing is one of the most effective marketing tools for an urgent care center, and online reputation management is a major component of that. If an urgent care center is struggling with their online reputation, they should take a proactive approach to improving their online reputation by asking patients to leave an online review if they’ve clearly had a positive experience. Post signage asking for reviews throughout your center in the waiting room, at the front desk, and in exam rooms. If your budget allows, have a tablet available for patients to fill out their review before they even leave your center.

Ajay: 72% of patients use online reviews as their first step in finding a new doctor. How do you think urgent care centers can leverage this data to improve patient experience and thereby build their online reputation?

Alan: Once you start receiving positive reviews, highlight those testimonials on your social media channels, your website, and even throughout your clinic so other patients can experience the “bandwagon effect” of social endorsements. If you make “marketing claims” on your website, mine patient reviews for testimonials that support those marketing claims to strengthen your marketing messaging.

For example, if you say your online check-in system gets your patients in faster, and a patient review says the patient got in so much faster because of online check-in, pull that quote from the review and post it on your product page for your online check-in system. Conversely, your urgent care center can also use these reviews to see where your center can improve the patient experience. Are there trends in negative reviews that show there is a problem at your center? Sometimes negative reviews are opportunities to do better.

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Ajay: Unhappy patients are quite vocal online. How can urgent care centers intercept them before they post a negative review online? And how can they turn these unsatisfied patients into happy ones?

Alan: Good communication is the key to keeping patients happy, but it’s where most health care providers fail in the first place. Keeping patients updated on their wait times throughout their visits, from the waiting room to the exam room, and apologizing for all delays, is one of the best ways to prevent negative online reviews. Also, urgent care is modeled after the service industry, so creating a culture of service in your urgent care center will help you develop the type of patient experience people will rave about.

Having said that, an effective method to capture this kind of information is to use text messaging to do net promoter score (NPS) surveying. Patients receive a text within 60 minutes of their visits with the NPS survey question (would you recommend ABC Urgent Care Center). If the patient is a detractor (a score of 0-6), the patient is texted an option to receive a call from the urgent care center. If the patient is a promoter (7-10), the patient receives a text with a link to post a Google or Yelp review. However, if you see that a patient is having a negative experience at your center, don’t let them walk out the door without trying to rectify the experience. Have a conversation with them and try to find out how you can make it right before they leave.

Ajay: Physicians are generally very busy with patients, let alone managing their practice’s reputation. How can they take out a little time out of their busy schedule to check what their patients are saying about them online?

Alan: There are many free or paid tools physicians can use to manage their online reputations. They can also work with their staff members to have them curate the best and worst reviews so they have a snapshot of what patients are saying about their urgent care centers. Regardless of how they choose to do it, physicians should make online reputations management priority.

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Ajay: Do you have an example of a practice or physician who is proactively managing their online reputation efficiently?

Alan: Practice Velocity is an urgent care software and billing company that uses a variety of paid and free tools to monitor our online reputation. We monitor what our clients and detractors are saying about us, and we also monitor what our competitors and our competitors’ fans are saying. We proactively reach out to our biggest fans for testimonials and use those testimonials to support marketing claims on our product pages to strengthen our marketing messages. Additionally, we create testimonials in the form of videos and blog posts that we publish on our website and social media channels. We monitor reviews about our company very carefully, and if we receive a negative review, we work with the appropriate department to respond to the reviewer to try to resolve the issue.

Ajay: What tactics will you suggest to urgent care centers so that they can learn more about their patient’s experience and thereby improve it?

Alan: This was already answered above, but to reiterate, urgent care centers should see negative reviews as opportunities to improve the patient experience. Look for trends in negative reviews that show weaknesses in your practice’s patient experience and make improvements based on those trends. Your patients’ feedback is valuable and is a conduit for continuous improvement. And don’t overlook verbatims in your NPS feedback; this is a roadmap to change from a customer’s perspective. When your customers give you feedback, they’re telling you exactly what to do differently.

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