There is so much emphasis in the healthcare world on digital aspects of marketing that it can be easy to forget about everything else – like your first impression. But your patient reviews are influenced much more by what they experience in their actual appointment than by any fancy online branding. So here are the top areas that impact your all-important first impression.


The number one marketing message I see from health systems is about how much they care. Their websites and social media are all constructed to demonstrate how well they understand their patients and how knowledgeable they are in ways to help them. Yet their actual facilities – when not transformed into beautifully photoshopped images – look anything but caring.

Their outside may be harsh and imposing, surrounded by asphalt and concrete. On the inside, they frequently have classic institutional paint colors, harsh lights, and confusing navigation.

To fix bad visuals requires a long-term plan. On the outside, consider your landscaping. Is it welcoming? Do you have cozy places for people to sit outside? Are their gardens to look at? Do you have birds or butterflies? Patients, staff, and visitors all need a mental escape and landscaping can play a big role in that.

On the inside, use simple interior design techniques to create warm, welcoming spaces. The historically cold, sterile look of hospitals is a trend we can all happily kiss goodbye.


The people you encounter on the way to your provider are the gatekeepers. These can be administrative staff who get your paperwork processed, volunteers who staff the information desk, or nurses who do preliminary checks before you see the provider. The attitude of these individuals becomes part of your first impression.

Clearly, a sullen attitude is a problem. But what about overfamiliarity? One trend I’ve seen is the constant reference to patients as “honey” or “dear.” This can be especially grating when the employee is decades younger than the patient, and can come across as condescending.

An easy solution is to have your team ask each patient what they’d like to be called. (And I bet nobody asks to be called “dearie.”)


The bedside manner of your clinicians is where you can really make or break a first impression. I’ve seen doctors go an entire exam without making eye contact with their patient or even looking up from their computer. In a competitive market, that just won’t cut it.

A mentoring program where new providers are paired with providers noted for their bedside manner can be very helpful. Of course, allotting your providers more than 10 minutes per patient will make a huge difference here, as well.

First Impressions Influence Patient Reviews

When a patient choose your health system, the last thing you want is for their Google review to center on how awful the receptionist was or how uncomfortable your waiting room is. Creating a good first impression can change the flavor of the entire patient experience. Focus on the areas you can change – and see the impact on your patient reviews.

Photo by Andre Gorham II on Unsplash