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6 Ways to Combat a Negative Online Review

“You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.”

― John Lydgate

Unfavorable reviews are, unfortunately, a reality for most medical practices. When it comes to healthcare, the old and well-known quote above holds true. Even if you think you and your practice have done everything right, the possibility always exists for a patient to walk away dissatisfied and air their grievances on the Internet for  all to see. 

There are many platforms on which a disgruntled (or pleased) person can leave a review – Google, Healthgrades, RateMDs, Vitals, Yelp, Facebook – to name a few. Unfortunately, these platforms tend to favor the side of the user, making removal of a bad (and possibly false) review very difficult.

Though not impossible, having an unfavorable review taken off is not probable. Fortunately, there are a number of things a practice or doctor should do when this occurs … and it will.

1. Do not be defensive.

  • Your instinct may be to challenge the reviewer and tell your side of the story. Resist this instinct. 
  • Confrontation makes you and your practice look bad and can further escalate the situation. 
  • Remember, this is not a private conversation between you and the reviewer; the exchange is public
  • The best course of action is to take “the customer is always right” approach. Apologize for the poor experience and offer to make it right.

2. Respond quickly.

  • Posting a response within one business day shows that you are actively listening and you care about each patient’s experience. 
  • This action might change the opinion of the reviewer, prompting them to perhaps retract the poor review, and will also speak volumes to a prospective patient who reads the review.

3. Dispute the review if it’s not legitimate.

  • Though getting a review taken down is challenging, each platform has terms of use that govern user posts. 
  • You should challenge each review you know to be false and leave it up to the platform to determine whether the review violates their policy. For most platforms, this is a straightforward process
  • The time investment is worth it if the result is removal of the bad review.

4. Be honest.

  • If the comments are well-founded, the best policy is to own your mistakes and explain how you will correct them. 
  • Keep your response short and genuine. 
  • Explain where the breakdown happened and offer sincere concern for the inconvenience. For example, “We recently implemented a new scheduling system and are working diligently to work out the bugs. Going forward, we are confident that this new system will enhance our patients’ experiences. We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this has caused.”
  • Most importantly, be careful not to disclose any information that would be in violation of HIPAA.

5. Focus on increasing the volume of good reviews.

  • The best way to combat negative reviews is to offset them with a much greater volume of positive reviews. 
  • Ask patients to post a review. Send an email following appointments and have handouts at checkout and throughout the office.
  • Do not collect and upload reviews yourself. This is a policy violation on almost every review site and will leave you vulnerable to penalty, up to and including removal from the site.

6. Use your reviews as a learning and training tool.

  • Whether the review is about the patient’s experience with the doctor, the scheduling process, the staff or the office environment, there are always important takeaways. 
  • These reviews offer insight into how patients perceive you and your practice. Use this insight to make the necessary adjustments.
  • Even if you disagree with the review, this was the patient’s experience. Do everything needed to ensure no one walks away with the same impression.

Regularly monitoring your online reputation is important so you know what information is being shared about you and so that any deficiencies can be addressed. Points Group works with many practices to help with reputation management, and we are happy to help you put your best foot forward.

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