Requesting and addressing patient feedback is crucial during COVID-19

It’s a delicate time in health care. Many practices are reopening or resuming routine and elective care that was paused during state shutdowns. Some patients may be eager to go back to their doctors but others are fearful about safety. That’s why online patient reviews and testimonials are so important right now.

Feedback about your practice during COVID-19—both positive and negative—is shaping other patients’ and prospective patients’ views and decision-making. Here’s why it’s crucial to monitor, address, and also solicit feedback from patients during this time.

Online reviews: the single most influential resource for patients

During the coronavirus pandemic, more people than ever are turning to the Internet to stay connected and informed. In addition to seeking up-to-date news, people also want to find out how their community and neighbors are responding to the crisis. According to a New York Times analysis, this has led to a more than 73 percent spike in traffic for hyperlocal social media site Nextdoor.

Patients may be looking up your practice online more frequently right now—to find out if you’re open, if your hours have changed, what safety measures you’re taking, and if any recent patients have left reviews.

If you don’t keep your online reputation in top shape during this national emergency, it could affect your business in the future.

Online reviews are the single most influential online resource for patients, with 7 out of 10 patients looking to patient reviews when deciding on a healthcare provider, according to PatientPop. “If you don’t keep your reputation in top shape during this national emergency, it could affect your business in the future.”

Make sure you’re keeping your practice information current on Google and on your practice website, social media pages, and voicemail message.

Why you must monitor and respond to feedback

All you have to do is look at the surging COVID-19 numbers in the U.S. and the ongoing debates over mandatory mask-wearing to see that emotions and tensions are running high right now. Since your patients are likely more fearful and uncertain about their health and wellbeing than ever before, “any patient reviews may reflect higher levels of emotion,” noted PatientPop.

“As patients provide feedback, consider this a real-time opportunity to consider any adjustments you need to make, and respond immediately with compassion and understanding. The stakes are higher for you and your patients during times of stress.”

One patient we heard about was surprised and upset when she was billed $100 for a five-minute telemedicine visit. She had expected the doctor would spend at least as much time with her as in an in-person visit, and didn’t feel the appointment was worth the cost. This would have been a perfect opportunity for a practice to respond with an explanation and to set expectations for other patients considering scheduling a telehealth visit. Another way to make the time feel more meaningful is for providers to use visual patient education during virtual visits.

“Right now, what’s most important when responding to patients is to be prompt and informative,” noted PatientPop. “You can amplify your credibility by guiding patients toward accurate, trustworthy information sources, along with your own medical expertise.”

Right now, what’s most important when responding to patients is to be prompt, informative, and trustworthy.

This is important because there is a lot of misinformation circulating during this crisis, perhaps even on your practice’s Facebook page and on doctor review sites. Providers have an opportunity and responsibility to address this.

“Doctors, not just the ones on the front lines, have a really important role in communicating true information to their patients and other members of the public because time after time, the research tells us the person patients trust the most is their doctor,” said Tara Kirk Sell, Ph.D., M.A., a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security whose research focuses on pandemic preparedness and public health communications and policy responses to public health emergencies.

Use your responses to patient reviews to reinforce your role as a trusted source of health information. For example, reassure any contact lens patients concerned about their COVID-19 risk that the lenses themselves will not give them the virus, and emphasize proper hygiene when handling lenses. 

The time is now: capturing patient testimonials

Not all patient feedback right now is negative, however. Nor are all patients wary of having elective medical procedures. In fact, many doctors are finding that patients suddenly have the time, desire, and even funds to address health issues they may have put off in the past.

“I guess patients aren’t going on their cruises so they’ve reassessed what’s important in life, and luckily have decided that their eyes and their lifestyle are important,” said Maria Scott, M.D., a cataract surgeon in Annapolis, Md. and Rendia customer. In a refractive recovery and COVID-19 roundtable discussion, she reported that her conversions to multifocal lenses are better in 2020 than any other year.

“We asked one of our patients, why do you want to have this surgery now? And his comment was, ‘Life is short.’” – Sheraz Daya, M.D.

Rendia customer Sheraz Daya, M.D., founder and chairman of Centre for Sight in London, U.K., who also participated in the roundtable, said that his practice is being proactive about asking current LASIK and cataract patients for reviews and testimonials at this time. “We asked one of our patients, why do you want to have this surgery now? And his comment was, ‘Life is short.’”

Sharing that perspective with other patients in a review or testimonial is a persuasive way to send the message that now is the perfect time to address health issues that impact your lifestyle. A good testimonial makes an emotional connection with prospective patients, and can make an impact that facts and figures cannot.


Read our previous post, How to Capture Compelling Patient Testimonials, for more on this topic.