13 Sep 3 Tips for Handling Negative Online Reviews

Negative reviews are difficult to read and crafting an appropriate response can be extremely challenging. It’s best not to respond immediately –  in the end, an upset patient deserves a thoughtful and measured reply, even if their complaint may not.

Before posting the response, have someone else read it and provide feedback. Is it respectful? Is it compliant? Is it defensive? Having a second opinion can be the difference between a good response and a bad one.

3 Things to Keep in Mind When Responding to a Negative Review


1.Thank the patient for bringing their concerns to your attention.

Many people take to online review platforms to make their voices heard.  Acknowledging that their opinion is valid and their experience important to you will help defuse disgruntled patients. What ends up online is rarely the full story, so you do not have to state that the patient is correct. Simply thank them for bringing it to your attention:

“Hi Mrs. Smith, thank you very much for bringing your concerns to our attention. We are continually striving to improve our patient experience and receiving feedback from patients such as yourself is vital.”

2.Always remember to be HIPAA compliant

Sometimes patients will disclose personal health information, especially if they’re writing their review when particularly upset. These reviews are some of the most tricky to respond to.

Make sure that in your reply, you do not release or respond to any of the patient’s health information, even if the patient is the one who initially disclosed it. Don’t even acknowledge the person is a patient at your office, because HIPAA still applies. Even if a patient has disclosed his or her information in an online review, remember that HIPAA prevents a physician from disclosing any information about a patient without the patient’s permission, and an angry Facebook post is definitely not permission.

The best way to respond is to state your practice’s policies on the subject at hand.

For example, patients will resort to online review platforms to dispute a charge or action taken by your billing team such as sending a patient to collections. Simply respond to their claims politely with your financial policy and let them know you would be happy to discuss the matter with them but unfortunately cannot on a social platform. Which brings us to our next point:

3.Give them a private outlet to voice their frustrations

Patients go to sites like Google, Yelp or Facebook to provide feedback because there are often no other outlets provided that they feel will get their concerns in front of the right person. When responding to a negative review, provide the patient with a direct contact at your practice to whom they can voice their concerns.  This should be a member of your management team who has been brought up to speed on the situation.

“We certainly understand that this experience was frustrating for you.  If you have any further questions or concerns, we encourage you to call our office and ask for our practice manager, Sue. She will be able to best address your concerns.”

Finally, remember that one bad review will not destroy your reputation,whether online or off. Look at negative reviews as an opportunity to objectively examine the criticism from the patient’s point of view and determine whether there is something you or your office can do differently.

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