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  • Viewpoint: 3 Strategies for Proactive Patient Service

    Viewpoint is a column created by AAOE® specifically for ophthalmologists and leaders in practice management.
    For many practices, a handful of negative reviews can seemingly come out of nowhere. Word spreads so quickly online that many practice leaders get caught flat-footed, responding to negative sentiment long after the damage has been done.

    The good news is that there is a better way: a proactive patient service (PPS) strategy. In addition to responding to negative patient feedback on a case-to-case basis, savvy practices put proactive patient service strategies in place to protect their name and reputation. Additionally, it is an outstanding way to generate positive word of mouth online.

    Don’t overlook this vital component of a sound practice marketing strategy. Here’s what you can implement in your practice without turning the world upside down:

    1. Solicit feedback, route appropriately.
    In sports it’s said that the best defense is a good offense. Applied here, that means actively asking patients to tell you about their experience at your practice. However, not all feedback is going to be good, and that’s where routing that feedback becomes critical. 

    You can, in an automated fashion, send an email post-visit to patients asking for their feedback. If the review or remarks are positive (as indicated by an upfront star rating), you can invite them to post those comments to Google, Facebook, Yelp or another social media platform. If it’s bad news, invite them to tell you more in a private channel where you can assess and ideally remedy the situation before it reaches a public forum.

    2. Monitor and respond.
    Actively monitoring and responding to conversation about your practice is a powerful strategy for staying ahead of potential issues. When you’re able to join a conversation in its early stages, you may be able to respond to and fix a complaint before it snowballs into a major controversy.

    Leverage marketing and service automation technology to get alerts whenever your company name appears on Facebook, Twitter, Google and other popular platforms.

    3. Understand your patient ratings.
    A net promoter score (NPS) is a measure of how likely your patients are to recommend your practice to others. It’s simple to calculate and understand but can be a powerful indicator of how your patients feel about your practice in aggregate.

    Here’s how it works: First, ask patients to rate your practice on a scale from 1-10 based on how likely they are to recommend you to others. Anyone who rates your practice 6 or lower can be considered “detractors.” Those who rate your practice a 7 or 8 are what are called “passives.” Finally, patients who answered 9 or 10 are your best promoters.

    Calculate your NPS using this formula: NPS = % promoters - % detractors.

    The number you’re left with will give you a quick reference for how your patient base views your practice and you can respond appropriately from there.

    Bonus: Communication is key.
    One of the best practices for proactive patient service and reputation management is making sure that your patients can easily reach your practice, express a concern and find a resolution. 

    Many vitriol-filled practice reviews start with the aggrieved patient feeling unheard or uncared for. Maybe they couldn’t reach someone who could address their issue. Maybe they were transferred around, put on hold for too long or the call dropped. Maybe they sent a message and never received a response. 

    Make sure that your practice offers several communication channels where patients can easily and quickly reach a representative that can truly help them. Putting those communication channels in place will save your practice considerable headaches down the road.

    About the Author

    Jim Flynn is the executive vice president and chief brand strategist at ONEFIRE, a health care marketing agency specializing in maximizing revenue generation potential for ophthalmology practices, specialty and subspecialty clinics, hospitals and medical device manufacturers. You can reach him at