Lovell Corporation

Best Practices for Managing Online Reputation

Online reviews. Publicly reported patient surveys. Google rankings. SEO and paid search. “Online reputation” means different things to different companies, and these few components merely scratch the surface.

In health care, a person might assume high-quality care correlates to a positive online presence, but one may not be an accurate reflection of the other. What’s happening inside your hospital, clinic or skilled nursing facility—and what the majority of patients experience—might be very different than what’s being portrayed online.

For health care organizations concerned about a poor online rating when their leaders, staff and clinicians provide top-notch care, a few important efforts can improve public perception of your organization and favorability toward your brand.

Be proactive

Invest in your hospital or health system’s online reputation before it suffers damage. While it may not be possible to anticipate every issue that can cause reputational harm, you can often mitigate the damage by being proactive. This includes engaging your patients and other stakeholders, even on social media.

Health care organizations often shy away from social platforms, in large part due to privacy concerns. With the proper policies and guidance to protect patient health information, however, it’s wise to build goodwill through these channels before crisis strikes. Sure, there will be occasional challenges—patients or families who post about their issues or complaints, identifying already stretched resources to monitor and manage the accounts—but the benefits of plugging into online communities often outweigh the risks.

Proactively managing your online reputation better equips you to withstand a blow when a negative or sensitive issue arises. Managing and cultivating your organization’s online reputation can make the difference between a significant negative event and a blip on your reputational radar.

Know how you show up – and what you can do about it

We’re often surprised when new clients come to us unaware of their organization’s true online reputation. They may know of a poor Google rating or cranky Facebook thread, but they often haven’t gone beyond the first few search results to see how and where their brand is represented.

They may not know that a Yelp or Indeed review is in violation of the site’s terms of use and could be removed. They may have never considered that a Facebook page just for their OB or Ortho programs would help create positive “above the scroll” results. They may have never heard about websites like Crunchbase or considered that a Pinterest or Vimeo page could influence online results.

This is where the assistance of professionals can be helpful. An online strategist can explore how new channels, dedicated websites and other digital efforts can help “push down” negative results and positively impact online reputation.

Leverage your thought leadership strategy

Securing favorable placement in a highly valued industry or business media outlet provides an opportunity to positively promote your organization and subject matter experts. It gives you a chance to continue the conversation with your stakeholders, broaden your audience, demonstrate your specialized knowledge and boost awareness and reputation of your organization. It also provides positive online search results that can help offset negative headlines and reviews.

Paid placements and sponsored content often provide similar opportunities. And you can extend the reach of your investment or media coverage with direct-to-patient or referrer messaging, email marketing, reprints or handouts and social media posts to enhance the narrative around your brand or to shift it in a positive direction if it has taken a blow.

Assess your strategies—and those of your competitors

Health care is still a leading topic for most media organizations, which can provide an opportunity for providers to secure frequent, favorable media and online coverage to influence perceptions around the care they provide. Analyze your organization’s media landscape thoroughly and often and compare it with your competitors. Consider the frequency and quality of each placement, whether the tone is positive, negative or neutral, the reach of the publication or website, and the prominence and placement of your organization’s name or message.

Tell your stories

Look for gaps and opportunities you may be missing and tell those stories. Is your organization winning awards or are your clinicians being recognized by industry peers? Is your team conducting cutting-edge research or contributing to breakthroughs in treatments? Has a patient or family sung your praises because of the compassionate or lifesaving care they received? These are the stories that, over time, create a powerful connection with patients, partners and other key stakeholders.

If the media isn’t covering your news, assess your strategy to determine the best way to leverage your stories with a robust blog strategy, other owned platforms and paid opportunities.

If you need guidance on effectively sharing your stories using any of these strategies, Lovell is here to help. Contact us at

tics remain uncertain of the rating system’s effectiveness, including the American Hospital Association, it’s often hailed as one of the industry’s most notable—and noticeable –advancements in transparency. The ratings (one to four stars) indicate how facilities perform when it comes to quality, care delivery and patient experience.

Why Star Ratings Matter to Your Brand

The number of stars your hospital receives can affect how your stakeholders perceive your credibility as a provider. Ratings can spur questions from patients, internal teams, local media and community members, and can even become the subject of Google reviews and social media commentary. Low ratings can deter prospective employees and, potentially, clinical partners, while high ratings can be viewed as a stamp of approval.

Regardless of issues with methodology, the influence these ratings can leverage is immense. It can be difficult and time-consuming to explain the nuances of a system that combines countless pieces of data into one star rating but it’s worth the effort to ensure your team is prepared and your reputation remains intact.

Understand Your Data

Star ratings reflect a range of data measurements reported to CMS, including mortality and readmission rates, indications of timeliness and effectiveness of care, and results of patient surveys. But some data may be many years old and may not reflect your hospital’s current, real-time quality efforts. For many smaller rural and critical access hospitals, some data measures may be missing completely because they simply don’t have enough patients in a specific category to qualify.

For all these reasons it’s crucial for marketing and communications departments to work with their hospital’s Chief Quality Officer and their team during data preview periods – typically a few months in advance of the formal release on Care Compare – to understand what data is reflected for your hospital during the reporting period and how it may or may not align with or reflect your current efforts.

Build and Own Your Story

Disappointed in your rating? Take the opportunity to put it into larger context. The hospital may have made significant improvements in the period since the data was submitted. Focus on what you’ve achieved more recently using data and quality measures that prove your point.

Pleased with your rating? Celebrate it and share how you’re continuing to raise the bar on quality care performance.

In both cases, take the opportunity to reiterate recent achievements and improvements not necessarily related to star ratings. These can include awards and accolades, capital investments, newly recruited specialists or clinical leaders, or other positive ratings your hospital has received from organizations such as HealthGrades or The LeapFrog Group (if you participate) or those from your state hospital association.

Engage and arm your advocates with this information as ratings are posted to help spread your messages and own your narrative. And remember that personal references and testimonials are often more powerful – and positively influential – than complicated rating systems.

Whether you are looking for innovative ways to market how your organization stands out nationwide thanks to your new star rating or need help adding valuable context to a rating you believe misrepresents your story, Lovell is here to serve as your communications partner. Our experienced team works with your organization to increase brand recognition, promote your providers and leaders as industry experts, and provide strategic reputation management.

Whatever the challenges or opportunities your star rating presents, we can help. Contact us at