I’ll cut straight to the point: Collecting five-star Google and Yelp reviews straight out of fellowship generated over $225,000 in new revenue for my practice from online patient referrals. And I have the data to prove it.
I joined my partner as a hand-fellowship graduate four years ago. He already had a very busy practice with over 100 new patient visits a month, on average, and my arrival allowed him to cut down his hours by 20%. However, a quick back-of-the-envelope calculation suggested that acquiring 20% of his existing practice, in addition to some ER calls, was not going to fill my surgical schedule — so I took matters into my own hands.
I devised an automated, email-based system (SurgiSurvey) that helps direct patients to leave reviews at select websites, avoiding the awkward process of soliciting reviews from patients. Anyone who has tried asking for Yelp reviews knows exactly what I’m talking about. Although patients are often quite polite and enthusiastically agree to leave a review, they almost never follow through.
The key to success is finding a way to enroll every patient who presents to your office. That can occur a number of ways: through an EMR, a patient's QR code, or a medical assistant's help. The automated system then takes care of the rest. Patients receive personalized follow-up emails from the office with useful information pertaining to their visit. Then, at scheduled intervals, they receive an email asking to leave a review online.
Within three months of implementing my new system, I was gaining reviews at a rate of three to 10 per month. Not only that, but they were all five-star reviews. Focusing on Google and Yelp, I immediately noticed that my search rankings increased dramatically, with Google search results showing my practice website as the top result for the search phrase “best hand surgeon.” This was better marketing than I could pay for, and it came at no cost. To see for yourself, just Google my name.
With my natural affinity for numbers, I analyzed the precise impact of the reviews after a few years, and the results were astounding. The system had generated over $225,000 during a three-year period. My practice acquired 162 new five-star reviews on Google, and my partner and I had generated over 200 five-star reviews on Yelp. I calculated that each five-star review was “worth” at least $900 to my practice in the form of new referrals, and the overall return on investment was 1,900%. Needless to say, it was a huge success.
I still continue to collect these reviews, and my system has now been upgraded for COVID-19 by functioning completely hands-free without any physician or assistant involvement. When I speak to friends and colleagues I am continuously surprised at how many people neglect their online reputation entirely. It turns out that physicians really don’t need to maintain a state-of-the art website, post blog articles, or promote themselves on social media. Rather, they can seek low-hanging fruit in five-star reviews from patients and achieve a hugely beneficial marketing effect.
I’m thankful that I had the foresight to collect online reviews, and I consider myself lucky to have found a publicly available system that worked for me and my colleagues.
As a final point, it’s worth noting that online reviews are a controversial topic among physicians. There remains a spectrum of opinions and emotions regarding the appropriateness of “soliciting” online reviews from patients. The intention of this article was merely to report measurable results of implementing a particular protocol for soliciting reviews; briefly introduce my rationale for embracing, and ultimately leveraging, online ratings in my favor; and more importantly, why I think every physician should do the same.
What do you think about online patient reviews? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.
Orrin Franko, MD, a practicing orthopaedic hand surgeon in the San Francisco Bay Area. Dr. Franko is the founder of SurgiSurvey.com, an automated marketing system designed to manage a practice's online reputation by collecting five-star Google and Yelp ratings.