How to get more Google Reviews for your healthcare practice & stay AHPRA compliant

Google Reviews definitely make an impact on new patients coming from local search, but how do you get more without getting into trouble?
How to get more Google Reviews for your healthcare practice & stay AHPRA compliant

Most health and allied health care providers have primarily locally-based patients and, while many may come through referrals, for a lot of practices patients generated through local search is very important.

With Google having a monopoly on the local search market, this means Google Business Profiles (formerly Google My Business) in the Google Maps results feature very prominently in the search results, and by extension Google Reviews. In fact, many of your prospective patients may be swayed by the number and quality of reviews being left, and anecdotal evidence from SEO professionals is that those with a lot of positive reviews rank better (probably an indirect result of Google reshuffling results to favour those getting clicks).

While you may be wary of the AHPRA guidelines regarding the use of testimonials for registered health practitioners, you are still allowed to solicit feedback and reviews.

To get more Google reviews for your healthcare business and not face disciplinary action:

1. Be aware of AHPRA Guidelines and relevant legislation
2. How to get more Google Reviews
 – Have a process for soliciting feedback
 – Ask patients to review
 – Apply automation to ensure processes are followed
3. Replying to reviews to ensure AHPRA compliance
4. Have a plan for negative reviews
5. What Google Reviews you can use on your website/marketing material

AHPRA Guidelines For Testimonials in Marketing & Advertising

AHPRA (the Australian Health Practitioner Regulatory Agency) has strict guidelines when it comes to reviews for medical practitioners and professionals. The things to be mindful of are:

  • Not all positive comments or reviews about a regulated health service are considered testimonials, only those containing clinical aspects of treatment, i.e. symptom, diagnosis and/or outcome.
  • Selective editing of reviews is strictly prohibited, as is using a testimonial in marketing or advertising that contains clinical aspects.
  • An advertiser makes use of testimonials (as defined above) to advertise a regulated health service
  • A person or a business advertises in a way that makes use of the reviews/testimonials to promote the service.

….But healthcare providers have no responsibility for what may appear on third-party websites, including your Google Business Profile.

AHPRA's position on third-party sites displaying testimonials/reviews
Source: AHPRA

Note that this is our own interpretation of AHPRA’s guidelines, and it is essential that you review the guidelines yourself or seek legal advice to ensure you remain compliant.

How to Get More 5 Star Reviews On Your Google Business Profile

1. Have a process for soliciting feedback

As a business, customer service is paramount, and making sure you’re delivering exceptional customer experiences will keep patients coming back and fuel patient loyalty and advocacy.

Whether it’s verbal feedback, or a survey patients complete after treatment, the feedback can be used as positive reinforcement, or in the case of negative reviews it can trigger processes to fix that patient’s experience or make sure you use it as a learning experience.

If your asking patients to rate or leave feedback through a survey, make it easy for them by

  1. Printing out a QR code that patients can scan before leaving.
  2. Send an email asking for feedback with a link they can click.
  3. Send an SMS with the link to leave feedback – everyone checks texts, and making it easy to do from the patients phone may increase the percentage completing your survey.

2. Ask for Google reviews from those patients giving feedback

First up, we need to stress that “review gating” is against Google’s terms of service. Review Gating is where you only request reviews from those patients you know will leave positive reviews, and if Google decides you are guilty they will remove not just those reviews arising from your practice of review gating, but all reviews….. That being said, you have no doubt seen a lot of Google Business Profile listings with large numbers of 5 star reviews with zero negative reviews and as much as that business may have exceptional customer service a purely 5 star profile is improbable.

So how do you skew the reviews to being more towards the positive outside, of course, delivering a great service?

One could argue that you don’t consider a service complete until you have a satisfied patient, and your process for requesting Google Reviews is only triggered after you deem the service complete. So in those instances of a less than positive experience, you attempt to rectify anything the patient is dissatisfied with before asking for a review.

At the end of the day it is up to your own risk profile. You have no doubt seen a lot of Google Business Profile listings with large numbers of 5 star reviews with zero negative reviews and as much as that business may have exceptional customer service, a purely 5 star Google Review rating is improbable.

3. Automating the process of requesting Google Reviews 

 Here’s the thing…a lot of businesses claim to have a policy of soliciting feedback, and maybe even requesting Google Reviews, but it just does not happen as much as it should. The busy of doing business takes over and some things are deprioritised.

Processes like requesting feedback and Google Reviews, and even referrals are perfect for automation, and FocalContact makes it easy:

  1. Use FocalContact’s form or survey builder to create a feedback from.
  2. Embed the form or survey in a page created using FocalContact’s page builder, or a page on your existing website.
  3. Create an automation that follows to request Google Reviews via SMS and/or email.

The following shows one of FocalContact’s templates for people to leave feedback – note the simplicity for people on mobile.

And this image shows a templated automation workflow that you can tie to a form/survey completion, or the addition of a tag to that patient contact record in FocalContact.

If you look at any of your competitors with a high number of positive reviews on Google, there is a high chance that they have a very disciplined approach to their processes or have automated the process of requesting Google Reviews.

Replying to reviews

You cannot control what people write on your Google Business Profile, but you can control how you reply, and you should always reply. 

  1. If the review/testimonial contains clinical aspects, it is important that while you do thank the individual for their review, you do include something to the effect that results may vary.
  2. If the review is non-clinical you may just thank them and move on.

Handling negative reviews

If you receive a negative review it is important that, no matter how unfair, you handle it professionally. In the reviewers mind they feel they have not received a level of service they were expecting, and how you handle negative reviews will be something other potential patients will take notice of. Being argumentative and bullish will not win you any points, and there are several positive ways to deal with a negative review:

  1. If you were completely unaware that the patient had a negative experience, express this in your reply and express an interest in remedying the situation. You could even reach out to the individual privately to salvage the situation – the reviewer can edit their review after publishing.
  2. If you feel that you handled the situation properly, tell your side of the story, but it’s best to remain calm, empathetic, and stick to the facts. Showing that you made all reasonable efforts to deliver the service as promised may not satisfy the negative reviewer, but it way win points with those reading the review.
  3. If a review is not legitimate, make sure to reply highlighting that you have no record of the individual but would be happy for them to contact you should there be some error in your records. At the same time, you can apply for the review to be removed by Google, but even reviews that seem obviously fake are sometimes not removed by Google, and even if it is removed you may expect to wait a week or two before it happens.

Using Google Reviews on Your Website/Marketing Material

Just one final thing to make sure you don’t get into trouble with AHPRA, if you are going to publish copies of Google Reviews anywhere make sure they appear in their full format without edits (unless the reviewer has made the edit themselves), and they must not contain any clinical aspects – they can only contain general info about your practice, e.g. how professional the staff were.

Want to implement an automated process to request feedback and Google Reviews? Book a demo call to find out if FocalContact is right for you. If you’re already using practice management software we can integrate with most solutions.

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