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Posted on 05.22.2019

Best Practices for Addressing Negative Online Patient Reviews

As the health care industry becomes more consumer focused, online review sites are providing new challenges for hospitals and health systems that must navigate the pitfalls of responding to complaints while honoring patient confidentiality.

But with challenge comes opportunity. A recent survey shows patient satisfaction rates nearly double when negative feedback is addressed, underscoring the need for every health care organization to have a fine-tuned plan for protecting its online reputation.

Here are some best practices organizations should consider when building their response strategies:

  • Respond no later than a week after the review is posted. Leaving a reviewer fuming for days reflects poorly on your organization, so a quick response is crucial. However, it’s also important to avoid knee-jerk reactions. Take the time to think your response through before posting.
  • Protect patient privacy. HIPAA requires providers to protect the patient’s identity and their personal health information, including phone number, email address, social security number, appointment dates or times, diagnosis or test results. Failure to comply with these rules can result in financial and legal issues, so never indicate – or even confirm –your organization provided care to a reviewer or disclose any protected health information in your response.
  • Acknowledge the reviewer’s perspective. Let the reviewer know you understand their position and your organization is always striving to improve. Anyone who leaves a negative review is looking for a human response, so keep your reply humble and sincere.
  • Highlight your strengths. Negative reviews offer a great opportunity to highlight what your organization is doing well. Where appropriate, emphasize the positives such as your exceptional customer service or your hospital’s many years in business. This allows you to frame your story while making the patient feel heard and acknowledged.
  • Keep it short and sweet. Stay on topic and keep your response brief, preferably no longer than two sentences. Longer responses can open the floor to further debate and may appear defensive.
  • Follow through. Be sure to establish a system for feedback to be shared throughout the organization and ensure you are following through with the promises stated in your reply.

When responding to negative online reviews, the goal is to reflect your organization in the best possible light. While a review may seem unfair, remember it also provides an opportunity to show your organization is listening and responsive to customer feedback. That’s a message today’s health care providers can’t afford not to send.

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