Studies show that information from other patients plays an important role in healthcare consumers’ decision-making process. Indeed, more patients than ever are turning to online reviews before deciding whether or not to see a doctor.

What are they hoping to learn? Whether or not patients had a positive or negative experience, if the physician has a good bedside manner, and maybe even what they charge. As patients pay for more of their own healthcare, they’re more likely to rely on sources like online reviews to gather information before setting an appointment.

For healthcare providers, this should be a serious concern. Dozens of online review websites make it easy for online reviewers to leave their thoughts, whether they’re good or bad.

These reviews can be a wonderful marketing tool if used appropriately, but if you don’t monitor your reputation, it can come back to bite you.

One recent survey showed that 1 in 3 patients who share their experience online post a negative review. While negative reviews are bound to pop up no matter what industry you’re in, they need to be dealt with. No response leads your audience to believe one of two things:

  1. The negative review is true and that’s why you didn’t try to repudiate it OR
  2. You just don’t care enough to respond

Neither option is fantastic.

How to respond to negative reviews

All reviews, whether they’re accurate or not, warrant a response. In the same survey mentioned above, many respondents noted that when they left a negative review, no one in the practice ever reached out to address their concerns – a huge no-no.

But what is the appropriate way to respond when someone has something unkind to say about your services? Especially in a public forum?

The number one rule is: Be prompt. Don’t sit on it for two weeks and think about your response, because at that point the damage has been done and it’s difficult to recover. Second, keep your response brief: Remember, this is an online venue, and you can’t say too much without potentially violating HIPAA laws.

The best bet? Leave a brief note acknowledging that you understand their concerns, and then reach out in private. When future visitors see the negative review, they’ll also notice that you made an effort to remedy the situation, and that counts for a lot.