What should you do with a negative online review? You must respond quickly – and correctly – or the situation could get out of hand, spiraling into an unwanted public argument that can torch the practice’s reputation and even invite legal troubles.
Here are five reputation management mistakes that can have devastating effects, and some simple ways to avoid them.
1. Allow the physician to respond (Don’t. Seriously, DON’T!)
If the response to a bad review comes directly from the doctor, what began as a patient relations challenge can easily turn troublesome. Having the physician discuss a complaint risks escalating a bad review into a back-and-forth of accusation and retaliation – in full online view of the public. It’s better to 1) onboard them to how marketing can handle engaging reviews; 2) tactfully inform the physician that a bad review has appeared; 3) keep them away from the keyboard, and 4) update them as you move offline to discuss and resolve the matter with the unhappy patient.
In the long term, the best way to prevent online confrontations is to adopt a transparency initiative that actively engages physicians in the review process.
2. Have no written policy for responding to reviews
Patient reviews and social media comments are now the norm in health care, so it is vital to have in place a written policy for responding to reviews, positive or negative. Timely, effective response depends on your staff knowing who is assigned to monitor reviews, what legal pitfalls to look for (libel, Protected Health Information, HIPAA violations, etc.), who will respond and how the response will be tailored. A thorough, well-rounded policy with response templates offers confidence that every review will receive a prompt and appropriate answer.
3. Respond too slowly to a negative review – or ignore it altogether
Address both positive and negative reviews within two or three business days at most. If the review is negative, reach out to the patient as soon as possible and assist them in contacting a patient relations staffer instead of discussing the issue online. Waiting too long to respond will likely further frustrate the patient. A complaint that goes unanswered tells the world your practice doesn’t care about patients.
Binary Fountain provides the platform and best practices for healthcare marketers looking to engage patient reviews harvested from over 100 online sources, including social media, review sites, advocacy forums, blogs and other sources.
4. Make a bad review worse by pursuing the conversation online or arguing with the patient
It’s tempting to come to the defense of your practice by justifying the steps that led to a complaint, or disputing the patient’s account. Don’t start a public conversation that could reveal Protected Health Information (PHI), or draw unwanted attention to the issue before there’s a chance to seek resolution.
5. Allow a HIPAA violation
HIPAA privacy rule violations can occur even where the intentions are the best. Online reviews heighten the risk. One medical practice paid a fine recently when an online post describing a positive medical outcome – which didn’t name the patient – was judged to have revealed enough personal information to make their identity obvious to neighbors in the small town where the patient lived. For reviews that have legal implications, such as revealing PHI, develop a policy and process with your legal department that includes contacting them immediately for advice on reaching out to the patient about their issue and request that the comment be removed.
Want to learn more about best practices? Read this blog post on “Reputation Management and Responding to Reviews.”
About the Author
Zargham help healthcare organizations better understand their healthcare consumer challenges and needs, in order to efficiently manage and improve patient satisfaction.