Three Ways to Ensure Online Reviews Drive New Patient Appointments

Jan. 21, 2014
For most consumers, online reviews have become integral to their buying decisions. A recent study found that 90% of people are influenced by online reviews ...

By Diana P. Friedman, MA, MBA

For most consumers, online reviews have become integral to their buying decisions. A recent study found that 90% of people are influenced by online reviews when deciding whether to purchase a product or service. More than 70% of consumers say they trust online reviews, second only to personal recommendations (90%) as the most trusted forms of advertising. Consumers searching for dentists are no exception to this trend since 70% of patients say that online reviews are as important as the dentist's credentials.

It's clear that prospective patients rely on online patient reviews as a key influencer when choosing a new dental care provider. The challenge for practices is to ensure their patient reviews get in front of the right audience at the right time in the decision-making process -- those actively seeking to find a new dental care provider and schedule an appointment. There is so much discussion today around online reviews that it can be overwhelming at times.

Here are three easy ways to use online reviews to generate more new-patient appointments:

Publish your reviews where prospective patients go to search for a new dental care provider. This may seem like a simple step but not all published reviews get in front of prospective patients outside of major search engine results. The easiest way to do this is to make sure the site that publishes your online reviews generates its own prospective patient search traffic and offers tools for conversion.

A recent entry into the dental industry, Healthgrades serves as a powerful example of this. Healthgrades drives 220 million consumer visitors each year, and on the medical front has demonstrated an impressive 54% conversion to appointments. Healthgrades has offered free standard dental profiles for years and recently partnered with Sesame Communications to bring Enhanced Profiles to dental care providers.

With an Enhanced Profile, your high-quality, verified patient reviews are automatically populated along with functionality for prospective patients to click-to-request an appointment. With more than 20 million dental searches per year, this is the type of site on which you want your online review published.

Monitor all reviews to keep track of your reputation. As much as you try to give the best possible patient experience, there are times when a negative review surfaces. While it's easy to identify negative reviews from your verified post appointment surveys, it's a little trickier to keep track of reviews across the Internet. In this instance, your best bet is to get help from a vendor with software that does the scanning for you.

An effective strategy to combat negative reviews is to generate and publish enough positive reviews to place the odd negative one in the right perspective. With the overwhelming influence that online reviews have on prospective patients, you want to know when less than stellar reviews take place.

Quickly address all negative reviews. Dental care providers, like most people, do not like conflict. Dealing with negative reviews is never fun; however, the speed in which you address these with patients can have a dramatic impact on your practice. When a negative review is identified, contact the reviewer as soon as possible. Seek to understand the issue, apologize where appropriate (even when you think it is a bit unreasonable), and then ask the reviewer to resubmit a revised review.

The best review sites (including the one on which you publish reviews) will override an older review with a later review from the same patient. This will help ensure your practice is presented in the best (and accurate) light. The longer you wait to address the negative review, the harder it will be to come to a mutually beneficial resolution.

Final Thoughts

Online reviews are second only to personal recommendations when prospective patients are choosing a new dental care provider. Therefore, where you publish your reviews and how you monitor and address negative reviews can dramatically impact new-patient flow. By making sure your verified, high-quality reviews are seen where people are searching for a dentist, your practice can optimize new-patient flow and minimize the impact of any negative reviews.

Search for "Diana Friedman" on for more information.

Diana P. Friedman, MA, MBA, is president and chief executive officer of Sesame Communications. She has a 20-year success track record in leading dental innovation and marketing. Contact her at [email protected].


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