Best Practices for Handling Negative Reviews

In today’s hyper-connected world, every patient is a critic. Review sites with testimonials by real people are gaining popularity among patients and it is important for practice owners to hone in on basic social media skills. It is reported that 54% of Americans reading online reviews look to negative reviews when making choices according to a survey done by the Pew Research Center. In a day where 92% of consumers are now reading online reviews, it is more important than ever to ensure your practice is handling its online presence carefully.

Consumers are writing reviews on every industry from restaurants to airlines. Recently, patients have begun writing reviews on their experience with practices in the healthcare industry. These reviews have become so influential that the healthcare industry is the third most looked at industry for online reviews.

Due to HIPPA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, healthcare professionals must take extra precautions when responding to unfavorable reviews. Though it is natural to have an urge to defend your practice, it most likely will not be in your best interest to do so directly on sites like Yelp.

In an article by the Washington Post, Charles Ornstein outlines healthcare providers who have violated HIPPA attempting to fire back at patients who reviewed them poorly. In one instance, a mother posted a negative Yelp review regarding her daughter’s experience with a chiropractic misdiagnosis. The chiropractor responded outlining the timeline and issues involved with the daughter’s case to which the mother responded was a violation of HIPPA. This review is just one of the 3,500 one-star reviews in which privacy or HIPPA are mentioned on Yelp.

So, how can your practice combat negative reviews effectively and legally?

  1. Build Your Online Presence
    88% of consumers develop opinions by reading up to 10 reviews. If this is the case, it is beneficial for your practice to have an abundance of online reviews so that the good will outweigh the bad. Encourage patients to leave reviews after appointments if they had a good experience (check out Prime Nexus- communication software for the eye care industry meant to drive successful patient to doctor relationships). As Tanya Henry says in an article on the American Medical Association, “one bad review will not destroy your online reputation,” if it is a minority to the positive reviews.
  2. Keep Responses Concise
    Do not use the post as an opportunity to explain yourself and the patient’s situation. A short response such as, “We value our patients and making sure they have the best experience. Please contact us at _____ so we can address your concerns.,” will suffice*. This does not disclose patient information and lets other readers know you are not letting the situation go unnoticed.
    *If you have questions before you post a response, contact a legal professional to make sure it is HIPPA compliant.
  3. Look at the Review as an Opportunity to Form a Relationship
    Receiving feedback from patients who had poor experiences can be an amazing way to develop your practice. Working with these patients can offer improvements to processes in all areas of the practice. Reaching out to these patients and meeting with them may influence them to combat negative reviews with a positive review in the future.
  4. Move the Conversation Offline
    Not only is meeting face to face more beneficial than talking online, it helps avoid any legality issues of disclosing private information. You cannot see who is on the other side of an email or direct message, so encourage the patient to come to the office if they would like to discuss details regarding their case.

Your practice’s integrity is important. These tips are meant to help you with handling negative reviews in the best way possible.

For more regarding digital marketing and your practice, check out 4 Simple Ways to Improve Your Online Presence

Four Ways to Reduce No-Shows
How LensFerry helps you meet patient expectations