You spent years dedicated to gaining your qualifications, and you know that you are an excellent healthcare provider. You know you are a professional who is focused on providing the best clinical outcomes for your patients, alongside providing empathetic and high-quality service.
Your patients are grateful that you’ve taken such great care of them from beginning to end and as a healthcare professional you feel rewarded because you have provided life-changing or even life-saving care that has made a real difference.
But how does the internet know? Gone are the days when word of mouth was the main method of generating business. Now, many patients are turning to Google as their first stop to find out about the reliability and quality of your services.
Well, your satisfied patient leaves you a review on Google… But we all know it isn’t that simple.
A public acknowledgment of your medical knowledge and expertise is a feel-good moment. It’s also great for your reputation and Google rankings. You have spent years differentiating yourself as a professional and you put hours into caring for this particular patient, so isn’t it fair that your efforts are recognised?
We think so.
However, although your patient’s review has all the above benefits to your practice, you are well aware that as a regulated health service you must ensure your advertising complies with the National Law and other relevant legislation.
The National Law states that the use of testimonials or purported testimonials (a positive statement) about your service or business may be considered a breach of your advertising requirements which in some cases is considered a criminal offence where a monetary penalty can be imposed by a court.
This moment of reflection whilst in the midst of reading your patient’s glowing review can feel something similar to Taylor Swift’s moment, when her Video Music Award speech was suddenly brought to an abrupt halt by Kanye West’s public interruption, stealing her thunder and enjoyment of her success.
You’re a highly qualified healthcare professional, not a digital marketer. This isn’t your area of expertise. So, what do you do? Do you respond to the review? Do you turn a blind eye and pretend it’s not there, or do you make moves to have it removed?
At Splice Marketing we live in the digital world of healthcare marketing, and we know that you’ve been in this predicament more than once. This is our area, and we’re happy to help. So, let’s start from the beginning:
Are all reviews or positive comments considered testimonials?
Comments from a patient about a practice’s service or communication style that doesn’t include any reference to clinical aspects is not considered a testimonial.
So, what are examples of clinical aspects that need to be steered clear of?
- The symptoms or the reason for seeking treatment
- The specific diagnosis or treatment provided
- The specific outcome or the skills or experience of the practitioner either directly or via comparison
When is the use of a testimonial/review not allowed?
The use of a testimonial is not allowed when:
- Your regulated health service makes use of a testimonial in order to advertise a regulated health service, and/or
- A person or a business advertises in a way that makes use of the reviews/testimonials to promote the service.
Below is a diagram recently added to the AHPRA Guidelines. This is designed to help healthcare professionals identify whether a review is considered a testimonial used in advertising and is in breach of the requirements of the National Law.
Do you need to take action to have a Google review removed if it refers to a clinical aspect of care?
More good news – no
The AHPRA Guidelines state Advertisers are not responsible for removing testimonials published on platforms they do not control or on sites that are not advertising a regulated health service. Google My Business now known as Google Business Profile is an example of this type of platform.
However, if you respond or engage with a review on your Google Business Profile, this may be considered using a testimonial to advertise your service.
There is also another aspect to consider here and that is patient privacy. Depending on your response, if you’re engaging with a review you could be publicly confirming that the person who wrote the review is a patient of your practice.
So, the action plan is to leave the Google review but not respond to it. You may want to reach out to your patient though (via email or phone) thanking them for their kind comments.
What if I receive a negative Google review that requires a response?
A negative Google review can be a gut-wrenching experience and one that is very hard not to take personally. Besides, you want to ensure your business has an accurate reputation and is not tarnished by reviews which you believe are unfair or factually incorrect.
We are regularly asked for guidance on what actions can be taken in response to a negative review.To help ensure you are meeting your compliance obligations, below are some responses you could consider:
In the case you have identified that the person leaving the review has consulted with your practice:
“Due to patient privacy and our AHPRA restrictions, we cannot provide a public response. However, we encourage you to call us to discuss the matter further so we can come to a resolution”.
In the case you have identified that the person leaving the review has not consulted with your practice and that this is a fake review:
“Our records show that you have not consulted with our practice. However, we encourage you to call us to discuss matters further”.
What additional actions can I take to have a fake review removed from Google?
Sometimes a review is written in such a damaging way that a polite response may not feel adequate.
In the case where you have identified that the person leaving the review has not consulted with your practice, it would be reasonable to take the following steps to have the review removed under the following grounds of not meeting Google’s policy on reviews:
Google’s policy against “impersonation” – pretending to be a patient to talk about someone else’s experience.
2. Spam and Fake Content
Reviews that are spammy or fake.
Google’s definition of spammy or fake content is any content that isn’t about a “genuine experience” with the specific company being reviewed. Content designed to manipulate a company’s star rating is also part of this definition.
How to Report a Google Review
- Log into your Google Business Profile.
- Click on “Reviews.”
- Find the review you’d like to report and click on the three vertical dots on the right-hand side.
- Click “Flag as inappropriate,” select the reason for flagging and enter your information.
- The process for reporting Google reviews can be found by following the link below
Can you ask your patients to leave a Google review?
You need to be very careful about educating patients as to what you can and can’t have in a Google review, in order to increase the number of compliant reviews you receive. It helps to phrase things simply so that patients who have never heard of AHPRA have a basic understanding of what feedback they can and cannot give.
Here is an example of how you could phrase this messaging:
“If you’d like to give us any feedback, we’d really love a star rating, but please be careful not to write anything about the clinical aspects of your care, because that’s considered a testimonial and we have to answer to a regulator for that.”
After other ways to enhance your reputation?
Our team of specialised healthcare marketers has helped hundreds of healthcare professionals and organisations in the health sector to navigate the digital landscape and achieve incredible growth results. All whilst staying on the right side of the law. And we’d love to help you too.
Here are some of the reputation building marketing activities our team can support you with:
- SEO – Content to match your potential patients’ search intent so Google can deliver your page to them.
- PPC – Facebook, Instagram, Google Ads to drive people to your website to convert
- Email Marketing – Updates to your existing database to nurture them with content that may be of interest
- Social Media Marketing – Answer your audience’s questions keep them engaged and drive them to your website for more information where they are most likely to convert
- Website Design and Development – Informative and educational website where patients can easily book an appointment online
- Video Marketing – Letting people see and hear from you directly to build authority and trust
- Digital PR – Media buying on publication sites your target audience frequently visit