How to Make NHS Choices Work for Your GP Practice

In our last article, we talked about the importance of setting up your Google My Business Listing, and how it is essential to encourage patient reviews on Google in order to improve your internet presence and search engine positions.

Reviews are, however, important for more than just search engine reasons. They provide GP practices with valuable feedback, and responding to them can help build trust and boost patient engagement. Positive reviews will of course heighten the reputation of the practice, and in turn attract new patients.

In this article we are taking a look at the basics of NHS Choices reviews, how they work, their benefits and how to best manage and respond to them. We'll also be revealing how your practice can use its GP website to encourage patients to leave reviews.

 

What is NHS Choices?

Aside from Google reviews, NHS Choices is probably one of the most important and most used resources for new patients going through the process of vetting GP practices. NHS Choices is considered the TripAdvisor of the healthcare world. The NHS itself says that 'user feedback helps people make informed decisions and encourages health and care providers to assess their services and make changes where necessary'.

 

How do Reviews Work?

Patients can search for the profile of any NHS service provider and then provide an overall star rating from 1-5, and/or leave a more detailed review. They are first questioned as to whether they would recommend a service to friends and family, ahead of being asked to leave a review and giving that review a title. Patients are asked to state when the services were used before submitting the review, and must verify that they have a live email address by clicking a link in an email sent to them before they can do so.

All comments are moderated by NHS Choices before they are published, and anything that is offensive, discriminatory or potentially libellous is rejected.

 

What are the Benefits of Using NHS Choices Reviews?

It is said that many healthcare organisations use the feedback from NHS Choices as an opportunity to celebrate success, or where feedback indicates it is necessary, to review processes.

Inviting patients to leave reviews demonstrates that you value their opinion. If you go ahead and respond and then make changes to address any common issues, it also proves that you genuinely care about patient feedback and are prepared to act on it. Reputation and trust will be boosted as a result.

 

But What About Negative Reviews?

People by their very nature are far more likely to become vocal and share experiences that have been negative rather than positive.

Many GP practices opt to avoid encouraging reviews from patients through fear of reputation damage. However, how are you ever going to make any positive changes or be aware that there is a problem, unless someone tells you?

A GP practice that doesn't give its patients the opportunity to express their feelings or concerns is going to come across as a GP practice that doesn't care.

There are tried and tested methods of dealing with negative reviews. Firstly, responding to them in a timely fashion is crucial. We'll cover review responding a bit later on. Secondly, you should demonstrate that you are prepared to take steps to consider how you might remedy an issue. Your practice should have a set process for doing so and it is important to keep the patient informed of how their issue is being dealt with.

There is a facility within NHS Choices that allows you to alert the moderator to any serious concerns you may have about a review. So if you believe comments are false, inaccurate, unfair or meant for someone else, or there is some other problem, there is the opportunity to request higher level assistance.

 

How Should I Respond to Reviews?

When a user comment is posted on your profile, you will receive an alert and you will be given the opportunity to reply. You can also respond to reviews left on your Google My Business listing.

NHS Choices encourages registered healthcare providers to respond to all comments, good or bad. They say it adds a personal touch and increases the perception that the practice is an 'open, welcoming place'. It also shows that you listen and have acknowledged what the patient has said.

You'll need to login to NHS Choices Moderation to respond to reviews. The following advice will help you write your response:

  1. Always bear in mind that comments are personal opinions. There is no right or wrong, and you may or may not agree with what has been said. It doesn't necessarily mean that something is defamatory. Try to take a neutral stance.
     
  2. Never take an aggressive or defensive approach and do not take things personally where comments are negative.
     
  3. Always thank the patient for their valued input and try to be as constructive as you can with what you say.
     
  4. Never use the same standard response for every review; this actually comes across worse than no response at all.
     
  5. Be consistent: don't reply to some reviews but not others, and definitely don't just respond to the positive reviews and not the negative ones.
     
  6. Be sure to respond to satisfied patients and thank them for their input.
     
  7. Always be careful with patient confidentiality. Never go into detail but encourage the patient to contact the practice to personally discuss their concerns.
     
  8. Even if a comment is anonymous, which some will be, take it as seriously as you would one with a name attached. NHS Choices suggests that a good way of approaching anonymous comments is to encourage them to visit the practice to discuss on an individual basis the issues they've felt it necessary to bring up.
     
  9. Always remember that your response is the final word. NHS Choices reviews are not a multi-way conversation, so if you come across further comments around the same experience or as a response to your reply, you can report them to the moderator and they will be removed.
     
  10. Anonymous comments will always remain that way. You are not permitted to ask NHS Choices for details of who left any negative comments as to provide this information would be a breach of data protection laws.
     
  11. Be aware that your response is viewable by everyone who visits the NHS Choices website, not just the person you responded to. Consider it a public relations exercise.
     
  12. Add a personal touch by stating who has left the response.
 

How Can I Encourage Patients to Leave Reviews?

In our last post we ran through a variety of methods you can use to encourage patients to leave reviews on Google, and these methods will work equally well with NHS Choices.

Posters in waiting rooms; prompts in emails and website alerts are excellent ways to pull in reviews.

As we pointed out, all Tree View Designs GP websites include a feedback section which can be activated in the control panel.

This feedback section provides patients with links to leave feedback via the Friends and Family Test; Google and NHS Choices. Patients can also make use of the GP website contact form to raise any suggestions or complaints.

When a patient leaves a review on NHS Choices, you can login to your website control panel and copy and paste the review from the relevant module into your website, where it will display on a dedicated reviews page. This means you can draw double value from your reviews.

We talked about how one practice we have been working with to boost reviews has experienced a significant boost since we started, from 1/5 stars to 4/5 stars: all in just six months.

If you'd like to discover how Tree View Designs can assist you in boosting your online reputation and patient engagement by integrating patient review systems into your GP website, you are welcome to get in touch for tailored advice. We also specialise in NHS website design, so if you are looking to get a new website for your practice, you'll be in safe hands with our experts.

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