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Responding to negative online reviews

When searching for a new restaurant or store, many people turn to online reviews on websites to help them make decisions. The same mindset is becoming more prevalent when patients search for a new physician. Doctors should be aware of this trend, and they should search the Internet on a regular basis to see what people are saying about them.

When patients write negative reviews, in many cases, you will be unable to respond. Simply acknowledging that reviews are from patients will confirm that they are your patients, and the response could be considered a HIPAA violation. It is recommended that you do not post a public reply; however, you should take a proactive approach to solve the problem.

If you can identify the patient from the user name or situation described, you should contact that patient directly to discuss their concerns. When the issue is addressed, the patient may be inclined to either delete or update their original review. It is not recommended that you specifically ask patients to change their reviews. If issues aren’t resolved to patients’ satisfaction, they may go back and update their review to indicate that you asked them to change their comments. If you can’t identify a patient, you can post a reply stating, “we are unable to respond due to patient privacy but we’d love to resolve this matter. Please contact our office directly.”

If many patients are making the same complaints about your staff, the appearance of the office, wait times, etc, you should take these complaints seriously. Correcting easy-to-fix problems may reduce the chance of a negative review.

You can find more about responding to a negative online review on the American Association of Family Physicians’ web site.

Do you have any tips on how to deal with negative online reviews? Please share them in the comments section.