reputation management

Directories still pretty inaccurate

If you've followed us for a while, you know I've been urging practices of all sizes to take their payer directory listings more seriously for years now. It's not that insurers shouldn't do a better job. It's just that (as someone who once owned a directory company) I know how hard it is to keep directories accurate, especially if it's not your core competency (like, when your actual job is providing health insurance). It's also something that requires effort on both sides to be done properly. There's just no way around this. The insurer can't be expected to know when anything changes on your side unless you inform them. And while insurers should do a better job of accurately publishing information you provide them, mistakes are inevitable. It's up to you to catch them and make sure they're fixed. And it's absolutely worth monitoring and correcting your listings! I can think of few marketing tasks that are more directly connected to attracting new patients. Patients want to know that you're (1) in their network (2) accepting new patients and (3) convenient to them before deciding to contact you. If you're not listed accurately in their health plan directory, you're basically turning them away at your door. More on the latest study showing directories just haven't gotten any easier to maintain: https://www.healthcaredive.com/news/inconsistent-physician-directories-no-surprises-act/645307/

By |2023-05-25T14:22:03-08:00March 17th, 2023|

You’ve got a marketing advantage: capitalize on it [practice management tip: marketing]

Medical practice management is filled with unique challenges. But there's also a unique marketing advantage that practices have -- at least traditional, insurance-based practices. When your practice accepts insurance, the insurance plans you contract with, and even patients' employers, become a potential funnel of patients. The key is to be sure your practice is able to take advantage of it. Consider the process a patient will likely follow when looking for medical care. If the patient needs a new primary care practice, they'll almost surely start with their health plan's physician directory. Even if they ask for recommendations from friends and family, they will still want to confirm that your practice is in their network. And even if the patient needs a specialist and gets recommendations from their primary care physician, that in-network confirmation will still be crucial. Despite how critical it is for patients to know whether a physician is in-network for their plan or not, payer directories are often inaccurate. Any mistake in a directory can mean that your practice misses out on a patient that would have come through your doors. Some errors are particularly damaging -- like leaving a physician out of a plan altogether, displaying an obsolete or inaccurate location or phone number, or showing "not accepting new patients" when the physician is, in fact, accepting new patients. It seems logical that payers should want these directories to be accurate -- and they probably do. But it's harder to keep them updated than it might seem, and that means errors are common. Even if it's not technically your practice's responsibility, payer directory accuracy is too important to leave in the payers' hands. Someone on your practice should periodically check all payer directories, to be sure that they're sending patients to you and not passively turning them away with incorrect information. Besides the basics of accurate information, many payer directories now offer the opportunity to enhance your listings with photos and other information. Take advantage of it! It's your chance to stand out versus the competition in the best free marketing resource around.  

By |2018-07-21T16:35:20-08:00September 30th, 2018|

The power of you front desk to influence the patient experience – and your reputation

One of our previous clients decided to move on from her group practice to set up her own practice.   After being in town for just a few short years it would be important for her to have a following of loyal patients. For this reason, I decided to research how patients were rating her, and discovered her average rating with several major sites was a 4+ stars.  Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?  I decided to dig deeper and read some of the reviews.  4 out of 5 had wonderful things to say, but the one critical rating was brutal and contrary to the glowing comments other patients made about this fine doctor.  The strong negative comments by this single reviewer related to his experience with the front office.  I suspect this could have been avoided if the front office team took pride in their work and understood that a major part of their role is to greet each patient properly and make sure their needs are met, as well as preparing them for the visit. Such comments as: “I waited an hour in the reception and was completely ignored; the receptionist was rude and acted inconvenienced; I was a new patient and no one seemed to care” reflect a patient that feels discounted and gets upset before ever being escorted to the exam room to meet the physician.  Unfortunately, it’s not rare to hear patients complaining about the way they are treated at the doctor’s office and how poorly it compares to their experience at Starbucks or their local bank.  It’s time for medical practices to implement some training standards that put patients first. It starts with creating a culture where physicians and managers believe their staff is their number one customer. Staff will only treat patients as well as they are treated by their superiors and the respect and care they are given.  A practice will not thrive unless the work environment is one of respect and appreciation – and it starts at the top! Hire good people and treat them right Be selective in who you hire. The

By |2022-01-01T22:51:48-08:00August 28th, 2017|

New ebook on the ROI of investing in the patient experience

Recently, the check-in automation company Phreesia invited me to write an ebook on one of my favorite topics: the patient-centered practice. It's called "Beyond Five-Star Reviews: Why the Patient Experience Matters, and How to Improve It," and it's available free with registration -- just click on this link. The idea of being more patient-centered and creating a better patient experience attracts more controversy and confusion than it should. The bottom line is that being more patient-centered fits with clinical goals as well as business ones, because it may help patients become more engaged and more receptive to clinical advice. "Patient-centered" is not about chasing positive reviews, and it's not about being patient-led. It's about understanding the patient perspective and communicating that you do, while also maintaining your practice's clinical integrity and mission. And it's about focusing on administrative processes patients interact with every day that can make your practice more or less welcoming and convenient for patients. The ebook contains some ideas that any practice can implement to improve the patient experience. I hope you'll check it out -- download it here.

By |2017-03-27T08:19:14-08:00March 27th, 2017|

Patient rudeness affects physician performance — what should practices do about it?

A new study from the University of Florida found that patients' rudeness towards their physicians can have a "devastating" impact on medical care. Patient rudeness may play a critical role in medical errors, which by some analyses are now the third leading cause of death in the US. The Florida researchers determined that patient rudeness causes more than 40% variability in hospital physician performance. (By contrast, poor judgment due to lack of sleep led to a 10-20% variance.) The reason for the huge variance is that despite intentions to 'shake it off,' experiencing rudeness disrupts cognition, even when physicians are determined to remain objective. The researchers found that key cognitive activities such as diagnosing, care planning, and communication are all affected -- and the effects last the entire day. The study suggests that patients need to understand the potential for rude behavior to  undermine their care, even when clinicians try their best to be patient and understanding, and even when the rudeness is driven by understandable frustration. But I think the results are also a reminder to practices to try to limit patient frustrations in the first place. Doctors often bear the brunt of patient rudeness when aggravation and anxiety boil over, even though most of what bothers patients happens before they even see their physician.  Because administrative issues are frequently the source of dissatisfaction, it's possible for practice staff to prevent or ameliorate many blow-ups. Doing so may help patients have more productive visits with their clinicians, while also helping to protect the practice's reputation and maintain a pleasant work environment for the entire team. If you're concerned about emotional patients disrupting your practice, here are a few ideas to consider: Evaluate, minimize your wait times. A long, unexpected wait in reception is a sure-fire source of patient frustration. When it happens in your practice, is it a rarity or SOP? If running significantly behind is an everyday occurrence your practice, consider a review of your scheduling processes, to come up with a schedule that is attainable. And make sure your front and back office staff are working together

By |2022-01-01T22:51:53-08:00January 15th, 2017|

Will regulation fix payer directory errors?

A few months ago, I was honored to host a #kareochat (thanks, @gokareo!) about filling the appointment schedule. The discussion hit on one of my favorite topics: payer directories. Repeat visitors to this space and/or readers of my ebook probably already know that I consider payer directory listings to be the top reputation management priority for most practices (at least if you're aiming to serve insured patients). Even though these directories aren't always near the top of a physician or specialty search in Google or Bing, most patients will know the name of their insurance plan, and will go to the plan's site to be sure any physician they consider seeing will take their plan. (This goes double for any patient who has been burned by accidentally seeing a doctor out-of-network, resulting in an unexpected bill.) Patients will find their plan directories, and use them to screen out doctors who don't take their insurance. Of course, the other reason I put payer directory listings at the top of the monitoring priorities is that they are so often wrong! It's logical to assume that the directories would be updated automatically or that the payers should take care of this without assistance from providers. But even though payers are nominally responsible, providers have to be vigilant, because the stakes for themselves and their patients are too high, and payers just aren't getting the job done. @drtom_kareo (Dr. Tom Giannulli, medical director at Kareo) pointed out that legislation is coming (SB 137) in California to mandate payers correct their directories. Plus, the CMS has already announced that it will fine Medicare Advantage plans for errors in their physician listings. In theory, this will push the payers to get their directory houses in order -- right? While the legislation is going to bring more attention to the problem, which is great, I don't think solving it will be so easy.  Here are a few reasons why I think it's not that simple. Are payers deliberately ignoring their directories?  I don't think so. The idea that legislation is the push that insurance companies need to

By |2022-01-01T22:51:56-08:00April 13th, 2016|

Filling your physicians’ schedule in Q1: Five Ways (webinar)

Whether you've got the deductible reset blues or have simply resolved to keep your schedule as full as it can be in 2016, I've got some ideas to share in my new webinar, "Five Tips to Fill the Schedule in 2016." It's free (sponsored by Kareo). Some highlights of what will be covered: Reputation management -- why it's more valuable and powerful than ever, and also easier than ever; The key segment of reputation management that must be your top priority -- and most reputation management experts never even mention it; How preventive services can help you cope with the deductible reset this year -- and for years to come; How embracing technology can become its own form of (painless) marketing, even as it gives your practice other big benefits. Of course, if you sign up, you'll have access to the recording a day or two after the presentation, so don't hesitate to register even if you think you might not make it for the live presentation. (But I hope you can join us live, because I really look forward to your questions and comments.) Here is the sign-up link.  

By |2022-01-01T22:51:58-08:00January 13th, 2016|

Your practice may be unintentionally turning new patients away

It's almost a new year -- woohoo!  Resolution time!  Fresh start!  And for many patients, brand new insurance! For many patients with new insurance, it's also time to shop for new doctors.  When they do, will they find you? By now you probably already know that there are many resources out there to help you with online reputation management (including lots of software products, and publications like this book by yours truly). But an often-overlooked part of online reputation management is especially important early in the year: payer directories. Patients rely on payer directories both when they shop for a new plan (if they want to keep their doctor(s), they'll want to be sure they're in the new plan) and when they start to use the plan (to choose a new doctor(s)). Both of these moments are among your very best opportunities to attract a patient who has just secured a plan you accept -- just the kind of patient you want. But if you're not listed in the directory, or not listed properly, your chance to attract that patients just slipped through your hands.  It's just as if your practice intentionally turned the patient away -- if your payer directory listings are not correct, the effect is no different. It may seem to you (as a sensible person) that payers should make sure their directories are accurate. And indeed they should. But, unfortunately, errors abound. Maintaining directories, it turns out, is a very difficult job.  While it shouldn't be your job, unless you assume some responsibility for monitoring these listings, you can't be sure they're correct; if they're wrong, it's  your business that pays the price. Plus, in some cases, online payer directories are adding features like photos and website links that can give your practice a promotional boost. You can't access these new features unless someone at your practice is engaging with these directories and keeping them updated and polished. Make checking and updating the directories of all your payers a top priority for the New Year. Finding and fixing even one erroneous entry can make a significant difference in

By |2022-01-01T22:51:58-08:00December 15th, 2015|

Fixing physician databases — even the CMS’s — shouldn’t be your job, but it is

Another day, another news story spotlighting the problems with physician database information -- and the impact those inaccuracies can have on patients.  This time, it's the federal NPI number database that has been revealed as less-than-perfect, as described in this story published last week by the Cincinnati Enquirer/cincinnati.com. The Enquirer's investigation found that "tens of thousands" (!) of records contain errors. If you've heard me speak on this subject or follow this blog, you won't be surprised to hear that, surprise surprise, I'm not surprised. Databases are challenging to maintain accurately -- it's much harder than you might think.  Errors are easily introduced and, often, hard to detect.  Even when the people managing directories work hard to keep them current, it's still likely that errors will occur. And then when directories depend on other databases and directories for their listing information ... well, that's going to magnify the problem, and make it much easier for an error to be introduced in multiple directories downstream before it's caught. Once that happens, the errors become the responsibility of people who are unlikely to catch them. While the Enquirer article points out many reasons the problems it uncovered with the NPI database are bad for patients -- all valid and worrisome -- these errors are, of course, bad for practices, too.  Anything that can lead to a misunderstanding or misinformation that is relied upon by a patient, fellow practitioner, or payer is a potential problem for a practice.  And the article also points out that a physician's NPI number can even be hijacked for fraudulent purposes. As with so many other issues related to directory data, the accuracy of NPI numbers and their associated information seems like it surely ought to be the responsibility of the people running the database. But many of the problems that can occur in a directory are too difficult for operators to catch with 100% accuracy (or even close) -- and the stakes are too high for your practice for you to leave the accuracy of your own information to chance. (According to The Enquirer, in this case,

By |2022-01-01T22:51:59-08:00July 14th, 2015|

Can the federal government solve the health plan directory problem? You should hedge your bets

Paraphrased from my Management Rx blog: The New York Times reports that the federal government hopes to fix a problem that many citizens complain about: inaccurate health plan directories.  When health plan directories are incorrect, patients can wind up unintentionally receiving services out-of-network, which usually leads to unexpected, significant out-of-pocket costs. The administration is naturally concerned about the impact of directory errors on patients, but out-of-date directories are a huge problem for medical practices, too.  Out-of-network errors mean the practice probably is paid less, and the patient may blame the practice for not catching the costly mistake.  Patients may share their disappointment with others, via word-of-mouth or even publicly via a review or rating. And besides out-of-network errors that everyone would like to avoid, practices lose even more when they're not listed at all by a plan they participate in, or they're listed with the wrong address, wrong specialty, or wrong status (i.e., accepting new patients or not).  When these errors occur -- and they're common -- the directory is turning prospective patients away from your practice. You can read the rest of my post at the Management Rx site. But the short version is, health plan directories are such an important source of information for prospective patients, medical practices can't afford to leave their accuracy to the insurers alone, even if the government gets involved. And on the plus side, health plan directories may be your single best source of new patients, and fixing and enhancing your listings is free!  It's rare to find a marketing effort that can be so easy, so effective, and free. My practical, step-by-step ebook on the subject -- "The Quick Guide to Online Physician Reputation Management" -- will empower you or a staff member to take control of all your online directory listings, and start seeing the benefits of being easier to find online.  It's just $6.99, but you can download a free sample at Amazon to try before you buy.  (If you don't have either a Kindle device or the free Kindle reader on another device, you can also purchase a PDF version for the

By |2022-01-01T22:52:00-08:00May 12th, 2015|

Patient use of physician ratings sites increasing — not waning

If you've been among the practice managers and physicians ignoring the 'fad' of physician ratings sites, hoping they'll just fade away eventually, there's bad news for you in last month's JAMA: more people than ever are aware of the existence of physician ratings sites.  And more people than ever are using them. As has long been the trend, though, patients aren't flooding sites with rants of disgruntlement; positive views continue to heavily outweigh negative ones. The most important take-away from this new research?  If you haven't started taking control of your listings on ratings sites, the time to act is now.  Hiding won't help ... and taking charge is easy, once you learn a few key steps. Interested in learning more about online reputation management?  I will be publishing a new Management Rx ebook on this subject in the next few weeks.  To be notified (and take advantage of free review copies if you're interested), sign up here: Subscribe to the Management Rx interest list by Email

By |2014-03-24T16:37:12-08:00March 24th, 2014|

Medicare Advantage plans dropping doctors: what does it mean?

News reports have been trickling in over the past couple of weeks -- growing in number -- about Medicare Advantage (MA) plans dropping doctors. First, we heard about UnitedHealthcare in CT dropping doctors -- then news came out about the same carrier dropping patients in NY, FL, RI, NJ, and, just yesterday, OH.  Sam Unterricht, MD, the head of the State Medical Society of New York, said in a Fox Business interview a few days ago that other plans like Empire Blue Cross and Emblem were following UHC's lead in his state -- and that he expects this MA plan activity to spread nationwide. What's driving this (by all accounts, extremely sudden) behavior on the part of MA plans?  The Tampa Bay Times reports that UHC attributes it to quality ratings ("[providers that] demonstrate the highest quality at the greatest value will be rewarded for their efforts.")   But, the effort to trim MA costs as part of the funding plan for the ACA probably plays a role. Unterricth said that one of the plan representatives he spoke with said that an anticipated 8% reduction in reimbursements to MA plans from Medicare as part of the ACA was at least partly behind all the physician cuts.  The timing -- coming on the heels of news of thousands of patients dropped from individual health plans -- does suggest a connection to ACA-mandated changes in 2014. Certainly, UHC's statement that quality ratings drove the decisions isn't incompatible with Unterricht's view that ACA cuts to MA reimbursement were behind them.  After all, if reimbursements to MA plans from the CMS are going to decline, then quality related bonuses are going to be that much more important to plans going forward.  It makes sense that they would try to goose their rankings to make up lost ground on reimbursements through bonuses. What does this mean for practices that serve MA patients?  Some practices in some markets might have argued that MA is a pain: it's like the restricted, non-negotiable reimbursement of Medicare combined with the hassles of dealing with a private payer.  But, we suspect

By |2022-01-01T22:52:13-08:00November 5th, 2013|

Monitor your physicians’ directory listings for accuracy

We often point out to our followers how important it is to monitor your payer directories and the online physician directories aimed at consumers for accuracy.  Now, from here in California, is more proof of how important it is to do so: Covered California, the state's health insurance exchange, has just disabled its provider directory because it contains too many errors.  (This story from the Los Angeles Times notes some -- like listing obstetricians as ophthalmologists and wrongly denoting whether physicians are speakers of languages like Russian and Farsi.) This post is not intended to pile on about exchange and ACA (Obamacare) glitches!  Rather, this move by Covered California offered an opportunity to reinforce how easy it is for incorrect information to enter a provider directory.  Once incorrect information is published, it can be replicated all over the internet -- as happens especially with the physician ratings directories.  (This is one more reason that Covered California did the right thing by disabling their directory until they had more confidence in its accuracy.) This problem was not caused by practice managers or physicians, but, unfortunately, it is one more thing that practices need to take some responsibility for -- lest their patients become misinformed (or unintentionally turned away, for example when a plan incorrectly lists a physician as not accepting new patients or fails to denote specialty/subspecialty properly). Practice managers: get in the habit of checking directories periodically, or assign this responsibility to a staff member.  Every practice should establish a tickler to check payer directories -- at least once a year.  You can tie it to contract renewal (another thing you need a tickler item for), or, better yet, find out if there is a schedule for new directories to be prepared from each of your health plans.  And check your listings on online consumer directories like Google+ Local, Healthgrades and Vitals at least annually; this is a great opportunity to both correct errors and add custom information (pictures, URL, custom text) as permitted (free marketing!).

By |2022-01-01T22:52:13-08:00October 21st, 2013|

13 for 2013 Tip #12: Review your directory listings

If the doctors in your practice have been practicing for a while, odds are you've already got listings in the Vitals.com and Healthgrades.com, the largest online physician directories.  However, there's no guarantee that those listings are correct -- in fact, it is not unusual for these sites to contain incorrect details such as defunct addresses and phone numbers grabbed from older public resources.  The listing for one physician we worked with recently even had the medical school he attended incorrect. The good news is, it is usually easy to 'claim' your listings on these sites using their automated self-identification processes.  Once you've claimed your listing, you can change all the details -- and add others that can help promote your practice, such as a photo and a link to your website. Besides checking out your physician rating site listings, the start of a new year is a great time to review your health plan directories as well.  Make sure that you're listed properly in all the plans you accept -- including verifying the 'accepting new patients' information.  And, don't forget to check that you've been removed from directories of plans that you've dropped -- to avoid any out-of-network surprises for patients that can turn into uncollectible bills for your practice. And don't forget about Google+ (aka Google Places) -- this easy to use listing process is a great way to get additional exposure for your practice and its website, with a link back, space for photos and the opportunity to add custom text about your practice and your philosophy.  Customized listings stand out dramatically versus unedited ones -- and it's all free!

By |2022-01-01T22:52:35-08:00February 5th, 2013|

Does Satisfaction Make Patients Sick?

A recent UC Davis study revealed a surprising finding - an inverse relationship between patient satisfaction scores and health outcomes.  In other words, those most satisfied with their healthcare providers were, on average, sicker and more likely to die than their less satisfied counterparts! As might be expected from these findings, healthcare costs were also higher - by about 9% -  among highly satisfied patients. The study compared health outcomes and patient satisfaction scores of over fifty thousand adult respondents of the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, a product of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  The survey is designed to be representative of the U.S. adult population and is the most comprehensive data set of its kind. Response rates for the survey have varied between approximately 60% to 70% over the last decade. Among the possible explanations is that physicians, motivated in part by physician compensation structures that consider patient satisfaction, stray from standard treatments and instead meet patient expectations. Under this scenario, patients are satisfied because tests and procedures are viewed in a more-is-better light, but clinical outcomes suffer, e.g., patients receive treatments that carry risk as a result of false positive lab results. The trend toward elevating patient ratings in measures of quality of care are likely to continue with the Center for Medicare Services (CMS) starting this past December with its initial phase of 1% rewards or penalties for hospitals under Value Based Purchasing. One-third of the evaluation process relies on patient data, i.e., survey data. These intriguing study findings certainly call for further research to solidify our understanding of the value of patient satisfaction ratings.   This study and our firm's experience especially calls into question the value of very broad measures of patient satisfaction, e.g, how satisfied are you overall, because patients are notorious for confusing bedside manner with the quality of clinical care. The implications of this study may be far reaching, but enterprising providers can take simple steps to educate their patients, preferably long before they see them in the exam room. With email and social media making communication easier and less expensive,

By |2013-01-24T14:40:12-08:00January 24th, 2013|

13 for 2013 Tip #4: Patient service=patient care

Physicians only need to peek at their ratings on sites like Yelp, Healthgrades and Vitals to realize the unfair truth: patients lump every aspect of their interactions with your practice into their view of your "care."  Worse, at times it seems like their reviews give more weight to things like staff courtesy and billing hassles than to their clinical outcomes! The good news is, however, is that this also means that making people feel cared for is a team effort at your practice -- and that means that the burden doesn't fall entirely on the physicians' shoulders.  The key, though, is to make sure the importance of patient service is understood by everyone on the team, and that everyone takes responsibility for it.  Some steps in the right direction: Educate your staff about the importance of patient service, and reward them for their good work.  Let them know that your practice's reputation depends on their contributions -- and that you value it! Invest in training if improvement is needed. Survey your patients.  Learning what's on their minds -- before they vent on a social media site or medical directory -- will allow you to address issues before they become problems.  And, some patients will perceive your service to be better simply because you took the time to ask their opinion. Strive for a personal touch.  Medicine is becoming bigger and more impersonal -- and that trend is only worsening with consolidation.  But, this spells opportunities for small practices to stand out!  Be sure your clinical routines allow for a bit of personal interactions with patients -- even just stating the patient's name at the start of the encounter conveys a touch of caring. Bring in outside help. If you're not 100% sure of how patients view your service and care, an objective analysis can be very valuable.  Contact us* if you're ready for a comprehensive, cost-effective service review and action plan.  When it comes to patient service problems, and ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure! *our San Francisco office works on patient service projects -- contact us via email at "info" at capko.com,

By |2022-01-01T22:52:36-08:00January 10th, 2013|

Common sense marketing

Did anyone else catch the recent This American Life episode called "What Doesn't Kill You?"  It featured a story about comedian Tig Notaro and her four months of sheer hell -- which included a harrowing, life-threatening bout with C. difficile, a breast cancer diagnosis, and the unexpected, accidental death of her mother.  Ms. Notaro turned the experiences -- amazingly -- into a highly personal comedy set that has come to be regarded as a legendary performance. There was much to love in the segment.  But, there was one small aspect of it that really made me the practice management consultant in me wince: the hospital survey that was sent to Notaro's mother after her death. Notaro made great comic lemonade out of the survey that asked her deceased mother if her hospital stay was comfortable, and if all procedures were clearly explained in language she could understand (Notaro's mom was unconscious during her entire visit, and died at the hospital).  But, the comedy reflected the pain that the survey caused. We're all for surveying patients -- it's a wonderful way to learn what you need to know to improve your operations, and many patients will feel that you care more about them just because you asked for their feedback.  But, a mistake like mailing a survey to a deceased patient is really inexcusable -- especially because it's so easily avoided.  Did the hospital's database fail to either track or remove deceased patients?  If you're mailing or emailing surveys or newsletters and tips to your patients to improve your practice and build on your patient relationships, good for you!  But, be sure you have processes in place to segment your lists and exclude specific patients from mailings that might upset them.  And be sure you have a routine in place to clean your lists periodically to remove patients who've moved or passed on.

By |2022-01-01T22:52:39-08:00October 21st, 2012|

It’s back! Suppressing online reviews – the issue that won’t go away

Today's Washington Post has a story about a lawsuit by a dentist against one of its patients.  The dentist had the patient to sign a "do-not-talk" contract prior to treating the patient's aching tooth, but the patient nonetheless posted a negative review on two sites when faced with an unexpected $4,000 bill. Attempting to control online reviews by contracts that squelch patient speech is an approach that is bound to backfire; patients will wonder why you feel the need to restrict their honest views and what kind of negative reactions other patients have had. Moreover, as the article pointed out: online reviews are only one tool patients can use to choose a doctor -- and only a small percentage use them doctors have many other lines of defense when bad reviews are posted -- including the courts if a review is defamatory the vast majority of reviews are positive! One website, RateMDs.com, has even started a "wall of shame" where patients can report doctors who attempt to prevent reviews by pre-emptive contract. Not the kind of publicity any practice wants! Don't let paranoia about negative reviews lead you to make this kind of mistake.  Reputable physicians can use reviews to their advantage -- not just through the benefit of positive reviews, but through the opportunity to learn about (and address) customer service problems in the office that may be invisible to providers.

By |2022-01-01T22:52:40-08:00January 29th, 2012|

Do you know HARO?

Media exposure can be a helpful tool for building and expanding your reputation -- by sharing your expertise, you can market yourself and your practice without "selling" and without outlaying cash.  However, it can be challenging to make reporters aware of your expertise and willingness to contribute to their stories. HARO -- Help A Reporter Out (www.helpareporter.com) -- solves this problem for both reporters and sources. HARO connects reporters with qualified interview subjects through its website and thrice-daily newsletter service.  Reporters submit questions and general information about the pieces they're working on, and the newsletter circulates all the opportunities to subscribers. There are multiple medical questions every day -- with outlets running the spectrum from small local newspapers and targeted magazines (e.g., by medical specialty) to national websites and print publications.  Best of all, the newsletter comes to you, and a quick scan (just a few seconds) is all that's needed to see if there's an appropriate opportunity for you.

By |2022-01-01T22:52:41-08:00October 5th, 2011|

Before you try social media marketing, try social media

Marketing via social media has many advantages for small businesses of all types.  It's a non-salesy way to connect with customers at lower out-of-pocket cost to start up than traditional advertising.  No wonder so many medical practices are exploring how they can get started with social media -- and no wonder that so many 'experts' are at the ready to tell physicians how they should get started. Usually, the advice begins by offering an entry point to begin using the social web.  "Start by creating a blog," the advice might read.  Or, "Facebook reaches more people and it's easy to create your presence."  However, what this advice sometimes fails to consider is the personal connection that is the key to social media success. Users of these networks already know what engages them and what doesn't.  Non-users who jump into social media as a marketers first, though, tend to stick out like sore thumbs. It's not that there's anything that mysterious about using social media -- after all, Facebook has 700 million users precisely because it's easy to use! -- but there is a certain flow to how people use it that's important to understand. So, before you try social media as a marketing tool, try it first as a user.  For example, before starting a Facebook page, set yourself up with a Facebook account, and subscribe -- i.e., 'like' -- different organizations to see how they interact with their followers.  (A few examples we like in medicine: Children's Hospital Boston, MacArthur OB/GYN, Kaiser Permanente, One Medical Group.) Another way to put your toe in the water with blogging: start out as a commenter.  This is a great first step for would-be bloggers -- and, in addition to building your online reputation, comments on other physicians' blogs can give you links back to your website. The range of blogs published regularly and inspiring comments is as diverse as the population of physicians: something for everyone.  Some lively medical blogs you might want to check out include Dr. Wes, KevinMD, Movin' Meat, Pharmalot, Diabetes Mine, Buckeye Surgeon -- plus, we'd naturally love to have you comment

By |2022-01-01T22:52:54-08:00August 15th, 2011|

20 Minutes to Better Web Marketing

So many physicians and practice managers we talk with feel stumped by web marketing.  With so many elements to consider -- your website, SEO, advertising, social media, and more -- it's no wonder it can seem overwhelming to tackle it all at once.  But, the good news is, there are little things you can do to market yourself better online -- even if you don't yet have a website. One of the best, easiest, fastest ways to immediately kick your marketing up a notch: take 20 minutes to check and update your company information on four places -- Yelp, Healthgrades, Vitals and Avvo. Listings on these increasingly popular rating sites are absolutely free.  In fact, in the case of Healthgrades, Vitals and Avvo, you're likely already listed, based on publicly available licensing information.  By claiming your profile on these sites, you can make sure your profile is listed correctly, add phone number, and even upload a picture. If you have a website, you can add that, too.  People visit these sites every day, so be sure you're showing up properly.  What's more, by fleshing out your profile with your link and photo, you'll stand out versus the majority of physicians in your area, who most likely won't have taken the time to polish up their profiles.  These sites also feed into Google, so confirming and updating your information will also improve the likelihood that people can find you when they search your specialty. By keeping an eye on these sites, you'll also be able to respond to any criticism from patients that deserves attention.  For example, one practice we worked with recently was receiving high ratings for its doctors, but office staff were consistently rated lower for friendliness and helpfulness.  The practice was able to learn from this feedback and adjust staff roles to address the issues.  Yelp even allows you to respond to negative reviews on its site with a posting of your own -- which can be an opportunity to repair a relationship (or, at the very least, show other visitors that you do care about patient feedback).

By |2011-07-28T12:46:12-08:00July 28th, 2011|

The Physician as a Speaker

Physicians are accustomed to speaking in front of their peers and giving clinical presentations, but don't assume this makes you a good speaker for a general audience.   Beyond practice makes perfect, here are ten tips to take to the podium: Read your audience. Using appropriate humor can: Warm up the audience; Engage the audience; and Help you relax. Stay within your comfort zone – it will expand over time Material and Style. Validate your audience: Ask a question to engage the audience – and occasionally you might say “Do you agree?” if a comment you made was general to the audience – or “I see some of you agree with me” (If you see some yes nods); Thank them for coming; abd When asked a question occasionally  say “that’s a good question”  and repeat the question for the audience before answering (unless the question is asked with a Mic), Modulate voice, adding emphasis when making a point. Avoid overuse of clinical slides for general audience. Tell stories – good ones not horror stories. Use lay language as much as possible. Keep it simple – leave the audience wanting more. Be yourself, but s strive for improvement - and always smile. It makes you a friend of the audience. Go for it and soon you'll be a pro!   Capko & Company your resource for statregic planning, practice management and marketing.

By |2022-01-01T22:52:55-08:00May 25th, 2011|

A prominent hospital unveils a great social media suite

Many healthcare professionals -- hospitals and doctors in private practices alike -- are fearful about using social media to connect with their communities.  Among other things, they're worried about privacy issues and regulations (e.g., HIPPA rules).  Yet, with more and more patients coming onto social networks -- and, especially, using them to connect with other people who share their health concerns -- some medical professionals are beginning to realize the social media sphere deserves their attention.  And, they're learning how to do it without compromising their commitment to patient privacy. A great example, courtesy of social media agency Ignite, is Children's Hospital of Boston.  Not only have they created a highly customized page on Facebook, they're cross-promoting via Twitter and have a YouTube channel as well.  Read the full story on Ignite's site.  And they did it all while being clear and straightforward about their privacy policy and cautioning visitors that information presented on social networks in no way substitutes for medical advice. Powerful communication -- definitely worth your time to check out the article.

By |2022-01-01T22:52:56-08:00April 7th, 2011|

Have you claimed your Place on Google?

Over the past year or two, Google has increasingly emphasized local web pages in its search results -- potentially a real boon for medical practices who have amassed detailed information in Google. One of Google's primary tools in delivering local results is Google Places, a profiling system that pulls information about an organization from all over the web.  Google collects information about the organization algorithmically (searching individual firm websites, plus directories for categories like doctors, dentists, lawyers, etc), but also relies on business owners themselves to verify and flesh out their Google Places profiles.  What's more, besides providing the opportunity to verify your data, Google Places allows you to add custom details like a description of your organization (you can even upload video!). Best of all, Google Places profiles are not only free, they help you obtain better results from Google searches for people searching for your type of practice in your local area.  Here's an example of how the Places records boost results -- note the two doctors with pink flags at the top of the search for "gastroenterologist san francisco," and how much more visible they are compared to the other listings: Clicking on the "place page" link takes you to the doctor's Places page -- which draws the practice's contact information (even providing a map), reviews and other information (including a link the the physician's profile on Vitals.com -- all the more reason to make sure that data is accurate, too!). Having this profile online can be a great boost and timesaver for your practice -- helping patients find answers to questions about your location, hours, etc., without needing to contact you.  (This is particularly useful if you don't have a website.)  And, if you have a website, having links back to your site from multiple places on Google can only make it easier for more people to find your site. Best of all, this opportunity is absolutely free, and really easy to take advantage of.  If you haven't claimed your Google Places record, set aside some time -- just 15 or 20 minutes will be plenty to get started -- to

By |2022-01-01T22:52:56-08:00April 5th, 2011|

Google alerts: stay on top of news that matters to you

Do you know what's being said online about your practice, or your specialty? With millions of blogs, forums and websites hosting articles and discussions on every topic under the sun, it can seem impossible to keep up with (or even to find) the conversations that matter to you. Fortunately, there is a free tool that offers a simple way to stay on top of web news and discussions related to your practice: Google Alerts. Just visit google.com/alerts, enter as many search terms as you like (create a separate alert for each subject you'd like to track), select the frequency of alerts and provide your email address.  Google will then email you links and article abstracts for everything published related to your keywords -- like magic! Not only will this allow you to stay on top of web topics related to your practice, it will also provide you the information you need to join the conversation.  For example, if a medical blog talks about a topic related to your practice, you can visit the blog and comment -- which is also a great way to introduce you and your practice to people who may be readers of the blog, and also gives you a link back to your website.

By |2022-01-01T22:52:56-08:00March 28th, 2011|
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