Strategies to Respond to a Negative Online Review for Healthcare Providers

For those of us that have been in practice for a while, we understand first-hand the pain of poor online reviews like Yelp, Google Reviews, or HealthGrades.

When I speak with my friends, colleagues, and clients about their experience with negative reviews, not once have I had someone not admit fear or frustration from their own experience. What is clear amongst most healthcare providers is confusion in how to respond to a poor review. I think the natural response is to bury our head in the sand and hope it goes away or think that readers will just ignore it and focus on their great reviews. I don’t think this is the best strategy. In this article, I will discuss different ways in which you can respond to a negative review positively in a way that will nip the negativity in the bud.

  1. Respond sincerely without being defensive: You should promptly and succinctly respond to the negative review, preferably beneath or near the original comment. Sometimes a simple “We’re sorry you felt that way” or “Please call us so we can talk about this” shows other people you are willing to listen. The goal is to make your office look better and an apology often can accomplish this. You should also identify yourself as the doctor or manager. This makes the apology or explanation sound genuine. Your own patients may even read the review and wonder what happened and want you to say something on your own behalf.
  2. Respond briefly: While you should be sincere in your apology or explanation, you don’t want to reveal too much either. The latter may seem like you’re airing dirty laundry in public. Also, revealing too much may have serious consequences, especially if personal or medical information is involved. Do not make a bad situation worse. Be aware the initial reviewer may respond to you again if you try and make them look bad, which almost always makes things worse.
  3. Consider the comments as valuable information or research: If you consider negative comments as free consumer research, it will help you tweak your service to your patients to better serve the complainant as well as other patients in the future. Perhaps your staff has a policy that you did not know about that needs to be changed. The most common problem I manage for clients surround financial practices of a staff member that could likely have been handled before the problem went “digital”. Consider distancing yourself from the negative emotions that such reviews generate then formulate a response. Then use other strategies to minimize the damage.
  4. Hire someone to respond to the negative review: You can a social media manager to respond to negative reviews. These professionals have the training and the time to chart a clear strategy for dealing with negative comments. There are real strategies to minimize the damage to you as well. It’s imperative that your healthcare practice speak in the same voice to all negative reviews, otherwise, it may hurt your practice’s image in both the short and long-term. You and your employees should chart a clear, consistent policy for dealing with all reviews. You can even make a practice of thanking patients for their positive ones.
  5. Don’t ignore the negative comment as it won’t go away: In fact, if you ignore the negative review, others may see it and make their own comment about a similar problem. If reviewers feel that they are being ignored, they will most likely become even more aggrieved and go public with negative comments that could have been dealt with appropriately in the first instance.

Finally, for the lonely healthcare provider, misery loves company so understand that your colleagues can share in your grief. It is relatively common to have a bad review amongst the good even when you provide stellar care to a patient. Reach out and find out how they have responded or contact me for help. I hope I have convinced you that doing something with a bad online review is better than doing nothing!

For more information on how you can respond to negative reviews and protect your healthcare practice, contact Kristine Grace DDS, MS, MBA at kristineg@intellahealth.net.

by Kristine Grace, Nov-18-2016

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