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How To Respond To Negative Reviews On Doctor Review Websites

If you are in practice long enough, you’re going to get a negative review from a patient.

No healthcare provider is perfect. No patient is perfect, either. Not to mention your office staff.

We’re all human. We have bad days, make mistakes and cause misery for others more often than we’d like to admit.

When you, your staff or your patients inevitably have a bad day, make a mistake or miss the mark, the result is usually a negative review.

Nothing gets healthcare providers moving faster than a negative review

No one likes to be told they didn’t do a great job. That their customer, the patient, is disappointed, unhappy or systematically trying to tear down your good name online.

While the toxic spew building at the back of your throat after reading a negative review may feel good to release, it’ll do little to help and will actually hurt you far more than you could ever imagine.

Responding to negative patient reviews on doctor review websites takes more than just emotional control – it requires accountability, empathy and action.

Here’s how the best healthcare providers handle responding to negative reviews when they occur.

One, own it

You can be the best doctor in the world, with the most sterling reputation, and still have a negative review hit you at the most inopportune time. We see it every week at InboundMD – a great dentist, dermatologist or surgeon gets a public nasty-gram from an upset patient.

Whether the patient has a valid reason for leaving a complaint or not, it should have no bearing on the way you should handle it. The fact is, the review is tied to your name, and that makes it yours.

Ignoring it will be of no benefit to you.

If you get a new review – any kind of review – it is your duty to respond and address it.

Two, empathize, online 

Notice that we said, “Own it,” not, “Fight it,” or “Deny it.” Publicly expressing empathy for the patient’s experience with your practice goes a long way. Both with the upset patients and others who may come next and see the review.

Maybe it has little (or nothing) to do with you why the patient is upset, but you want to say you’re sorry that they don’t feel they got the best treatment. You want to reiterate that you strive to provide high quality care and delight patients with a great patient experience.

Mistakes do happen and no one is perfect. Letting the patient know they’ve been heard and you want to use this as a way to get better, creates a bridge that usually results in the review being taken down by the patient.

Three, take it offline

No one wins when a doctor fights with a patient online.

As annoying and infuriating as negative reviews can be, you have to remain calm and remove your emotions. Otherwise, you run the risk of alienating a patient and hundreds of others who may catch your public fist-a-cuffs.

If there is something that needs to be addressed, it needs to be done in private. If you are trying to get more details about what went wrong (in the eyes of the patient) during their visit, the appropriate way to do that is by contacting the person through a direct message to them.

Remember, HIPAA applies when speaking with patients in public. Never reveal their personal health information. Never, ever ever.

Four, make it right

You know better than I do what happens when some leaves a wound untreated. It festers and gets worse.

Sometimes, it could be deadly.

Don’t let a negative review get worse, turn into more negatives on other profiles or kill the good name of your practice. Once you are aware of the problem, do everything you can to make it right.

During the personal outreach to your patient, you may feel it’s appropriate to make an offer to them in an effort to repair the damage they feel was done. By making it right, you will have the best chance of your patient removing or amending the negative review.

In many cases, when a wrong has been made right, the end result is more positive than if the review had started positively!

Five, fix it for good

More often than not, patient complaints have less to do with outcomes and more to do with the patient experience.

Office staff, insurance fiasco’s and poor bedside manner are the most frequently cited reasons for patients leaving negative or poor reviews for healthcare providers and practices.

These are all people problems that can be fixed through better process, procedures and consistent coaching.

As healthcare continues to change, practices with the best patient experiences will be able to differentiate themselves from competitors, earn more and spend less time fighting with patients online!

Use your patient feedback and patient reviews online to guide and make positive improvements in your practice.

Handling negative reviews is a never-ending challenge

Negative patient reviews are not going anywhere. It’s one weapon every patient knows they have in their arsenal should they need to go to war.

Even the best healthcare providers in the world get negative reviews and in reality, are powerless to do much other than own it, fix it and prevent the same issue from happening again.

While advances in software and tools like InboundMD and RepCheckup, make it easier to manage your professional reputation, monitor review profiles and handle negative reviews, when they do happen they still need to be handle with great care.

Hopefully, our five step process for responding to negative reviews on doctor review websites helps you combat a patient’s weapon of reputation destruction.

If not, get in touch. We’re happy to advise and help you out.

Garrett Smith

Garrett is the Founder, and Chief Marketer at InboundMD. Garrett has been successfully leading internet marketing campaigns for health care practices across the US for almost a decade. He's a frequent speaker at events, and author of "Book Now! Internet Marketing for Healthcare Practices", that details how successful practices are winning online.

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