Many physician practices would prefer not to think about online doctor reviews, and for good reason. It can be easy to feel powerless when it comes to responding to feedback. Unlike other business owners, who are able to provide their side of the story on public forums, HIPAA regulations prevent physicians from responding directly to issues involving medical care or even advice. Furthermore, for healthcare providers specifically, negative reviews can feel very personal. While there are many benefits to an empowered healthcare consumer, it can be easy to feel attacked when they rant in public about their differing “medical opinion”.
Despite these challenges, it would be foolish to ignore the issue all together. The fact is, more than three quarters of patients use online doctor reviews as their first step in finding a new provider. So, what is to be done? Here are three suggestions to not only minimize the impact of negative reviews, but utilize the system to make your practice and your online reputation stronger.
Reverse Negative Reviews
If a negative review was left by a legitimate patient, evaluate if there is an opportunity for service recovery. Many times, negative reviews are completely disconnected from medical advice and have more to do with administrative issues. If this is the case, a personal call from a manager can often calm patient frustrations. Once an issue is resolved, it is appropriate to ask the patient politely if they would consider revising their review.
There will be times when it is difficult to identify a review as an actual patient. In these cases, it is important to remember that review sites take fake reviews very seriously and it may be worth reporting the incident.
When you do receive a negative review, as all doctors do, keep communication private and offline. If the offended party is an actual patient, use the email address or phone number that you have on file to communicate with them through secured channels that satisfy HIPAA requirements.
Overcome “Bad” Speech with More Speech
Smart practices learn how to utilize online doctor reviews to enhance their reputation. Most reviews left online are good, so the key is to increase the volume of reviews. People tend to consider the wisdom of the whole rather than focus on one negative review. If you are already collecting patient experience data to satisfy requirements for CGCAHPS or MIPS, it should be easy to identify your best patients. This is a good place to start. If they are pleased with the care they receive, most patients are glad to provide a positive review if asked. People leave reviews in general to help people like themselves find good doctors and avoid “bad” ones. If you know that you have patients that think of you as a “good” doctor, ask them to share their opinion!
Another benefit of engaging your best patients is that it is not uncommon for loyal patients to come to the defense of their doctor when they come across negative reviews online. Build your fan base and let them do the work for you.
Embrace the Feedback
“Give instruction to a wise man and he will be still wiser, teach a righteous man and he will increase his learning.”
Some negative reviews are born out of frustration from unrealistic expectations. There are others, however, that are worth a second look – especially if a pattern exists. Try to view criticism objectively and determine if there is an opportunity to improve your practice and provide better service.
If you haven’t looked at your reviews (or directory listings) lately, it may be worth taking 10 seconds to use our scan tool to see what is out there for your practice and how you compare to other practices. Simply click on the link below and be informed!
For more information, check out these steps to take before responding to a negative patient review.