10 Tips for Handling Negative Patient Reviews

More and more, prospective patients are relying on online reviews to make a decision of which practice to choose. This means those reviews and how you respond to them are essential for your online reputation.


Responding to a positive review is simple enough, but the tough part comes when a not so flattering review shows up. Even if you’re a skilled physician with a charming bedside manner, you’re going to get a few negative patient reviews. So how do you handle them? That’s what we’re here to share.


1. Don’t ignore them


Every review, whether positive or negative, is an opportunity to engage with patients in meaningful ways. By responding to negative feedback, you’ll show your patients and prospective clients that you’re willing to own up to your mistakes and accept feedback.



2. Give a timely response


When a negative review appears online, you don’t want to take weeks to mull it over. However, if you write back immediately, you run the risk of letting your emotions get in the way. By giving yourself an appropriate amount of time, you can put personal feelings aside and focus on the patient’s feelings.



3. Consider the patient’s perspective


Some negative reviews may be less about you, and more about a bad situation the patient was going through. It’s important to put yourself in the patient’s shoes and ask yourself:

  • Why did this happen and why did the patient feel this way?
  • Is there something we could have done to prevent it?
  • Is this a common complaint?



4. Thank them for their review


According to a statistic from Lee Resources International, for every one customer complaint there are 26 other unhappy customers who have remained silent, even if they had the same experience. Although it’s never a good feeling to get called out, it’s important to acknowledge this patient for honestly speaking up and giving you insight on an issue that may be affecting more of your patients.



5. Don’t get defensive


Arguing with the reviewer or trying to justify your side won’t do anyone any good. Instead, acknowledge the reviewer’s complaints and show concern that they didn’t have a positive experience. Address legitimate complaints and politely correct any inaccurate information by mentioning your standard procedures.



6. Protect patient confidentiality  


Even though the conversation is online, you’re still interacting with a patient and must comply with the Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act (HIPAA). If the patient’s complaint is regarding your medical advice or their condition, diagnosis or treatment, you can’t respond publicly without breaking confidentiality.

You can, however, post a generic but genuine reply, thanking the reviewer for the comment and letting them know that due to privacy regulations, you can’t address any specifics about their comments. Just try not to replicate these mistakes made by other healthcare providers.



7. Offer to take the conversation offline


While responding publicly can help build credibility with prospective patients, messaging or calling the patient directly allows you to discuss the specifics of their complaints. This keeps you from getting in a back and forth conversation for all to see and shows them the kind of individualized attention you give to your patients.



8. Don’t ask patients to take their review down


Even if you ask politely, it’s bad practice to ask the reviewer to withdraw their comments plus it creates distrust and undermines the doctor-patient relationship. Instead, you should focus on addressing their complaint and resolving any problems. It’s possible the patient will appreciate your effort and consider changing or updating their review on their own.



9. Contact the review site about fake reviews


If you receive a negative review that is clearly not from a concerned patient, or is unrelated to you or your practice, reach out to the site and provide evidence. Review sites don’t want fake reviews, either – though they will only consider removing them if they violate very specific rules.



10. Use the feedback you get


Bad reviews are bound to happen, but the most important thing to remember is that these bad reviews can be put to good use. Use them to teach your staff, to rethink policies or for future enhancements to your company. The best thing for your organization to do is use the findings to make changes that matter most to your patients.


Our FREE online reputation report allows you to answer these important questions:

  • Are your business listings accurate?
  • How do customers feel about your business?
  • What sites should your business be on?
  • How do you compare with industry standards?
  • Are your social media accounts effective?