In my practice, I meet patients from all around the Dallas-Fort Worth area — all from different backgrounds, all interested in different procedures.
Sometimes I wonder how they heard about me, so I ask them. I think patients often assume this is just a formality on my part — a question that I've worked into the format of each of my consultations. But really, it’s out of my own curiosity.
Some patients respond by saying that they simply picked my name out of a Google search. Occasionally, these patients had initial consultations with several surgeons, and I just happened to be the one they went with in the end. Other patients have come to me after hearing about my work directly from a friend or family member. Word of mouth, in other words.
Overwhelmingly, however, I see patients who tell me they have read my positive reviews online. They liked what they saw. This, in turn, gave them the confidence to pick up the phone and dial my office’s number, as opposed to the office of the next doctor on the list, one who may not have had as many good reviews.
You already know that most people use the internet to conduct research when choosing just about anything, from a plastic fork to a plastic surgeon. What I want to emphasize is the importance of accumulating reviews when it comes to your online marketing strategy.
I don’t want to speak out of turn here, because, after all, I’m a plastic surgeon, not a marketing professional. But I do feel like I have a bit of an expertise in this arena, having made a concerted effort to encourage patients to write online reviews and then using those reviews to improve my work.
I’ve talked with several different surgeons about this topic, and while they usually agree that reviews are good for improving one’s patient base, many don’t understand just how important they truly are.
Today, people are more skeptical than ever about what they read online, and with good reason. Many companies, and even some medical professionals, fabricate reviews on their own websites. More often than not, these "reviews" seem a little too good to be true. So when I say that nothing beats a good review, I mean that nothing beats a good review on a third-party website, where fabricating reviews is nearly impossible.
On Facebook, for example, people write reviews that are linked to their personal profiles. If someone with 300 Facebook friends writes a positive review of your practice, that's roughly equivalent to a personalized word-of-mouth referral to those 300 people. Multiply this by even just five positive Facebook reviews, and you have a gigantic, brand new audience of potential patients who already feel very confident in your abilities as a plastic surgeon.
Even if they have no plans to get a procedure done right away, your name will come to mind, if and when they do. A case in point: A gynecologist recently referred a patient to my office for a tummy tuck. The first thing the patient said to me during the consultation was, “You have a five-star rating on Google, so you must be great. I am really excited about this procedure, and I feel you are the best surgeon to do it.”
In addition to receiving online patient reviews, it’s important to read what your patients are saying about you. Whenever I go through my reviews, I have to take a deep breath first. It can be difficult to hear criticism. Still, it's absolutely worth it.
While browsing reviews, I thank patients who took the time to describe their experience and praise my practice. I also try to respond to criticism. In such cases, it is essential to keep a friendly and understanding tone as well as to invite them to contact your office. Others will see your response to criticism and evaluate you based on how you reacted.
Reading my reviews has given me the opportunity to identify areas of improvement. Recently, I noticed that patients really seem to appreciate physicians who listen and staff who are friendly. This falls in line with my own beliefs as well — that the people who interact with patients at a practice make the biggest difference in their experience. So when I talk to my staff, I emphasize the importance of friendliness and attentive listening. Of course, I try to embrace these qualities as well.
Finally, I'll note that you should read reviews of other doctors as well. See where they can improve and try to avoid making the same mistakes.
A dermatologist I know refers a lot of patients to me. These same patients have repeatedly complained that his office does not answer the phone or listen to voicemail messages. They have also reported being billed obscure amounts, without any explanation. At one point, I happened to look at his reviews and noticed many patients had echoed these statements online. I mentioned it to the dermatologist, who then made an effort to improve his practice’s communication with patients. I made a note of this for my practice, too.
If you are looking for a way to boost your patient base, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of positive third-party reviews. Ask your patients to write reviews, then read reviews about your work and about other doctors. It'll be well worth it for growing your practice.
What strategies are you employing to improve your surgical practice? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.
Dr. Raja Mohan is a plastic surgeon who focuses on aesthetic and reconstructive surgery of the face, breast, and body. He is one of the few surgeons in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex with specialized fellowship training in aesthetic surgery. He has extensive training in non-invasive procedures and offers the latest in injectable fillers, botulinum toxins, chemical peels, and laser skin resurfacing.
Illustration by Jennifer Bogartz