Each day a million consumers go online searching for a doctor or looking up physician reviews. A large number of these online healthcare consumers will click on Healthgrades, as it is typically one of the top sites to appear in search results. In Colorado alone, where Healthgrades is based (and, coincidentally, so is Clementine), between 50,000 and 60,000 people visit the Healthgrades website every day.
Among online review sites, Healthgrades is the most popular consumer resource for physician profiles and physician ratings, according to a 2013 survey of 4,515 U.S. patients by Software Advice.
Having a strong presence on Healthgrades can help you attract new patients and keep the ones you have. And even without your permission or participation, you will be listed on Healthgrades, which uses public databases to populate its records. So why wouldn’t you take full advantage of this free physician marketing tool?
“There is still an idea among physicians that medical marketing is inappropriate, but you have to recognize that consumers are absolutely searching online for information about physicians,” says Healthgrades chief strategy officer Evan Marks. “Even if they already have appointments, they’re checking on you.”
Sixty-five percent of healthcare consumers know that doctor ratings can be found online, according to a 2012 nationwide survey in the Journal of the American Medical Association And almost one-fourth of respondents had used an online review to help choose a primary care physician in the previous year.
Awareness of these online sites has only grown in the last few years, making review sites such as Healthgrades an essential part of physician marketing and medical practice marketing.
More than three-quarters of prospective patients looking online, say they begin their search on Google, Bing, Yahoo, or some other search engine, rather than on a healthcare site. Using Google search to find a physician — for example, “best orthopedic surgeon in Denver” — you will find Healthgrades at or near the top of the list.
Consumers can choose from a number of filters to narrow and order their searches. If the consumer doesn’t sort, Healthgrades' “best match” algorithm is the default, Marks says. It will order results by combining and weighting factors such as distance from consumer, number of patient experiences posted, and search volume for a particular physician or practice.
We asked Marks the best way to optimize a Healthgrades profile. Combining his advice with our experience, we’ve put together a list of six steps you can take to maximize your profile and help potential patients find you:
1. Post a photograph on Healthgrades. “Having a photograph makes a huge difference,” Marks says. “Make sure it’s not just a snap from your phone, but a more professional-looking shot.”
2. Invite patients to post reviews. Patients who found you online are probably more likely to leave online doctor reviews. Healthgrades allows physicians’ own websites to embed a link to its site. It also offers cards that you can hand to patients after an appointment to make it easy for them. The cards, which you can request from Healthgrades customer service, offers a link they can use to complete a survey about you.
3. Check and update online information about your practice. Healthgrades gathers information from hundreds of government and commercial sources and updates with new information within one to three months. Still, Healthgrades acknowledges that the best and most complete information comes from the providers and practices themselves. When providers update their own information on their Healthgrades profile — which they can do using free registration and access — those updates appear on the website in one to three business days.
4. List your specialties. Healthgrades says patients and referring physicians consider information about conditions treated, procedures performed, and care philosophy to be important in consumer evaluations.
5. Consider the convenience of your patients. The JAMA study said 20 percent of consumers found the ratings to be the most important factor in making a decision about a primary care physician, but even more patients said it was important to have information about insurance acceptance (89 percent), a convenient location (59 percent), years of experience (46 percent).
6. Monitor your patient reviews. Address negative feedback while being mindful and respectful of patient privacy. Pay particular attention to reviews about diagnostic accuracy, physician experience, and appointment wait times – three key areas patients identified as important to them in the survey mentioned earlier.
With tens of thousands of people in your market visiting the Healthgrades site daily, you can’t afford to miss out on this important—and totally free—marketing tool. If you don’t have the time or resources to set up your online profile, ask your physician relations liaison at your affiliated hospital to help—handing them your CV and spending 5 minutes telling them your specialty areas (within your discipline) and your philosophy of care. If the hospital can’t help, look around you. You might have a front office person or nurse who is particularly tech savvy—even a teenage son or daughter usually can knock this out for you on their phone while you chauffeur them to and from school!