No matter the reason for negative reviews, one thing is sure—it’s bad for your reputation.
This is troubling because most patients find new doctors through reviews and word-of-mouth. Referrals are falling by the wayside, which means your reputation, online and off, is more critical than ever.
If you do receive some negative reviews, don’t panic. There are several things you can do to minimize the damage and make things right.
Before responding to patient reviews, remember the following.
- Studies show that 93.5% of patient complaints are a result of miscommunication. Miscommunication happens all the time; the key is to determine the misunderstanding and eliminate the communication gap.
- Don’t take complaints personally. Think of them as helpful red flags to remind you to improve your communication systems.
- When you respond to a patient, don’t get defensive. That’s not going to win the patient back or help you attract more patients.
Respond when possible—but tread carefully.
When you see negative reviews online—especially one you feel is unfair or inaccurate—it can be tempting to leave a response, explaining yourself and defending your honor. However, due to HIPAA and privacy laws, this isn’t always a legal recourse. If you respond, you must do so in a way that doesn’t reveal any personal information about the patient, such as what medical services were performed, which can be tricky.
In these cases, stick to general information that shows you’re listening and that you care. “I’m sorry you felt our staff was rude. Please get in touch with us directly so we can learn more and make this right.” It might not feel like enough, but anyone who sees the negative review will also see your response, and that might make all the difference.
Request a private conversation.
Because of the restrictions you face as a physician, a public conversation is often impossible. In these cases, move the conversation offline. If you can identify the patient who left the bad review, contact them directly and ask about their concerns. If you’re able to fix the problem or straighten out the issue, do so.
If the patient refuses to speak privately or isn’t satisfied by your efforts, at least you know you’ve done all you can. In most cases, however, the effort you put in will be noted and appreciated, which means your negative review has a good chance of turning into a better one.
Focus on good reviews and get more of them.
If you consistently engage with your patients on social media, through email, and with face-to-face conversations, they’ll become more active on your social media pages and pay closer attention to what others have to say about your practice.
As a physician, you can and should ask your patients to post reviews on various sites. Make it easy by including direct links in your emails and newsletters and posting your request on your social media pages. Remember, however, that it is illegal to provide anything of value in exchange for good reviews. The only thing you can offer is stellar service and the highest level of medical care—but you’re already doing that, aren’t you?
No matter how you feel about online reviews, one thing is clear—they’re here to stay. Instead of fearing them, ignoring them, or fighting them, look at them as an opportunity to learn more about your patients, connect with your community, and improve your services. Do these things, and you’ll be getting great reviews in no time!
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