In the U.S., the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has issued new guidance on how investment advisers can use client reviews that are posted on independent websites. Many U.S. states and international regions already impose restrictions on the use of patient testimonials in physician advertising. Will medical professionals soon see new restrictions similar to the financial industry? I think the answer is yes.
The SEC guidance update permits financial advisers to publish testimonial content from third-party websites, such as endorsements posted to Facebook, as long as they publish both the positive and negative reviews in their entirety. The SEC’s testimonial rule had previously prohibited advisers from drafting or submitting comments to the third-party review sites themselves, paying others to submit favorable comments to the site, or suppressing, editing, or manipulating the order in which the commentary was presented according to an article in Investment News.
With online reputation a legitimate concern for many doctors and the dissemination of only favorable reviews likely to be restricted, what is a physician to do?
Our own research – and reports from the likes of www.realself.com and www.realpatientratings.com – suggests that the vast majority of patients are satisfied or very satisfied with their experiences in aesthetic practices. At the same time we have found that 93% of aesthetic practices have fewer than 5 reviews on popular sites such as Google and Vitals.
This means that you likely have a happy base of patients but a less-than-representative portrayal of your reputation on most ratings and review sites. Now is the time to revive conversations within your office, and with your patients, about the importance of reviews online:
- Deliver not just exceptional clinical outcomes, but service that is worthy of acclaim.
- Know which online ratings and review sites are most visible in your market.
- Look your patients in the eye and express that you value their feedback, in person or online.
The more you ask, the more you are likely to receive. And a testimonial shared by a patient in her own words, from her own computer, on the site of her choosing is priceless protection. Because while regional authorities may limit how you use testimonials in your advertising, restrictions on a patients’ free speech are very unlikely indeed.