No matter what you do, people on the internet are going to talk about your practice. They might say positive things; they might say negative things.
What happens when those negative things show up on a review website?
Walking a fine line
A recent survey found that nearly every consumer has searched for a local business online at least once in 2017. Oftentimes, these consumers are also checking review websites to determine where to spend their money.
When you’re a doctor, the notion of an unhappy patient leaving a negative review can be particularly intimating. Because of HIPAA, physicians need to be especially careful when responding to patients in an online environment.
As a doctor, what’s the best way to deal with negative reviews?
Request feedback from your happy patients
One of the best ways to deal with negative reviews is to bury them under positive ones. That being said, prospective patients can tell if you’re putting out fake glowing reviews, and they’ll be less likely to trust you no matter how high you get your rating. In a similar vein, providing patients with gifts or incentives to review your practice will also come off as disingenuous.
Don’t force it. Instead, make sure to regularly ask your satisfied patients to leave a review. Patients who are genuinely pleased with your service are often happy to provide you with feedback. As long as you keep providing excellent service – and keep reminding your most contented patients to rate your work – those negative ratings will be buried in no time. In fact, 44% of consumers believe that reviews that are older than one month are no longer relevant.
Don’t neglect your unhappy patients
As tempting as it might be, don’t ignore – or worse, fight with– your unhappy patients. Receiving a negative review can sting, especially if you feel that it’s unwarranted. Still, you should take a moment to calm down and consider what the person has to say. Listening to criticism can be an excellent way to improve your practice and staff, particularly if you’ve heard similar complaints in the past.
You should also make sure to follow up with the poster through direct messages in a calm, non-confrontational manner. Let them know you hear and respect them. Responding to someone outside of direct messages can cause problems with HIPAA – in fact, even if a patient has disclosed their information in an online review, physicians cannot disclose any information about the patient including confirming that they’re a patient. (Yelp has outlined some of the unique challenges physicians face when answering reviews.)
Try to remember that one bad review from a disgruntled patient is not the end of the world. Prospective patients will look at your overall rating, and many of them will seek out the negative reviews and make their own judgments about their importance. The best thing you can do as an ophthalmologist is to ask your satisfied patients to your rate your practice online, and make sure that your dissatisfied patients feel heard.