It’s human nature to take criticism hard and to minimize praise even though negative feedback happens much less frequently than positive feedback. For physicians, negative online reviews can be especially stinging—after all, you constantly strive to deliver the best possible care for every patient.
The bad news is that, with review sites multiplying and encouraging everyone to weigh in on everything—including their medical care—you’ll have to deal with negative online feedback if you haven’t already. But there’s good news too. Deal effectively with a negative review, and you can turn it into a positive one and potentially attract more patients.
What should you do when a patient criticizes you or your staff online?
- First, don’t ignore the post. Healthcare is not immune to consumer ratings; some patients are venting, and potential patients are reading. In fact, a recent Wall Street Journal report cited data showing that 77% of consumers use online reviews as the first step in finding a new physician.
- Determine if the post is legitimate. If the review is a fake, contact the host website, the Journal article advises. Bogus content can damage not only the physician’s reputation, but the credibility of the websites on which it appears. They have good reason to remove fake reviews.
- If a complaint is real and not posted anonymously, reach out to the dissatisfied patient. Physicians should reply offline, apologize for the patient’s unsatisfactory experience, and be sympathetic to his or her concerns. This demonstrates to the patient that the practice is willing to listen and make changes when necessary. Create templated, HIPAA-compliant, customizable replies to facilitate effective responses, Medical Economics suggests.
- Resist the urge to reply immediately and risk saying something inflammatory in the heat of the moment.
There’s another reason to address negative reviews in a careful, respectful way: It’s good for you as a practitioner and your patients. How patients feel about their medical interactions influences the efficacy of the care they receive, and doctors’ emotions about their work influence the quality of the care they provide.
Or, as Doctors in Training asks, “If you only heard praise, would you learn to correct your weak areas and improve to be a well-rounded physician?”
- Wall Street Journal, June 25, 2017, “What Doctors Are Doing About Bad Reviews Online,” by Shirley S. Wang, online article, https://www.wsj.com/articles/what-doctors-are-doing-about-bad-reviews-online-1498442580
- Medical Economics website, October 22, 2016, “5 tips for tactfully combating negative patient reviews,” by Alex Membrillo, website http://medicaleconomics.modernmedicine.com/medical-economics/news/5-tips-tactfully-combatting-negative-patient-reviews
- Physicians Practice website, January 6, 2016, “Avoid Bad Online Physician Reviews: 5 Tips,” by Gabriel Perna, website http://www.physicianspractice.com/patient-relations/avoid-bad-online-physician-reviews-5-tips
- The Atlantic, November 2014, “Doctors Tell All—and It’s Bad,” by Meghan O’Rourke, online article https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2014/11/doctors-tell-all-and-its-bad/380785/
- Doctors in Training website, January 13, 2011, “Criticism and Praise are Just Feedback” blog post, http://www.doctorsintraining.com/blog/criticism-and-praise-are-just-feedback/