When and How to Respond to Online Patient Reviews | Binary Fountain

January 13, 2020

When and How to Respond to Online Patient Reviews

By: Kieran McQuilkin

doctor-patient-reviewsThere’s no question that online patient reviews are growing more important to healthcare organizations and their providers. Why? Because 95% of patients today say physician reviews online are reliable and over 70% say reviews have influenced their choice of physician.

What people say online about your practice or business is crucial to understanding customer perception and what matters most to them. But how and when you respond to reviews can be the difference between growing your business and falling off the map.

Any business without a clear feedback loop is doomed to fail.

In this article, we’ll explain why, when and how you should respond to patient reviews online.

Fixing the Record

When it comes to your healthcare company’s online reputation, you’re the authority. But you’re not the only voice in the room.

Just about anybody can post about your business on the web, so it’s crucial to constantly monitor reviews and respond quickly. That way, marketers and brand managers get the first word when potential patients ask questions, before unverified users get there first.

You might also come across fake reviews, which – luckily – are few and far between. Before you ever confront a fake evaluation, you should understand how the review sites define “fake” and how to appeal. By knowing the rules of third-party websites regarding user-contributed content, you might be able to get a fake review removed.

In other cases, reviewers can cross the line from helpful suggestions to something potentially insulting or slanderous. These situations are rare, but if they happen, you do have some recourse when reviews violate the platform guidelines.

Most of the time, you can flag reviews as inappropriate if they fall within specific guidelines on a given listings site. Google and Facebook are two of the main places where patients can leave reviews, so understanding the rules on each is a good place to start when planning to protect your online reputation.

Keep in mind that even if you flag a review, it doesn’t guarantee Google, Facebook or Healthgrades will take it down. Review platforms are not in the business of mitigating disagreements between a business owner and a dissatisfied patient. They also aren’t in a rush to resolve your specific problem, so flag inappropriate comments as soon as possible.

Responding to Positive and Negative Reviews

The ultimate goal of responding to positive reviews is to evangelize the patient and show that you take feedback seriously. Everyone likes immediate feedback and knowing they were heard, and nobody likes being ignored.

Here are some quick tips on how to reply to positive patient reviews:

  • Thank your reviewer. It’s polite, and showing appreciation will help attract more prospective patients.
  • Make sure you address what made the customer happy and take the time to call it out.
  • Take the time to write a unique response that will resonate more with the user.
  • Promise to share the compliment, and share it with your employees.

Positive reviews are much more common than negative ones – nine times more likely for healthcare providers last year, according to Binary Fountain’s 2019 Healthcare & Consumer Insights Survey. However, while no one wants to see negative reviews about their business, the question isn’t will it happen – but when.

How and when you respond to these comments depends on the severity of the negativity contained in the review. But the first instruction is to breathe.

No matter how bad the content is, you must remain calm and fully analyze a review before considering a response. Your staff would likely remember the interaction they had with the reviewer. If the complaint is about a specific employee, get their side of the story before making a response plan.

Then, promptly apologize to the unhappy reviewer and take the conversation offline rather than risking an online back-and-forth conversation that could worsen the situation.

Here are some quick tips on how to reply to negative patient reviews:

  • Keep calm and evaluate the review from their perspective
  • Address the reviewer’s complaint
  • Monitor reviews, and remove or flag any inappropriate reviews
  • Promise to make improvements to products and services

Remember: Ignoring a less-than-favorable review is rarely helpful to your business, and in fact, could make the situation worse.

Regardless of the comment’s sentiment, if you make responding to patient concerns a priority, you’re that much closer to maintaining a good online reputation.

Increasing Transparency and Protecting PHI

When it comes to managing reviews on your facility’s provider pages, Binary Fountain recommends publishing all verified comments from patient experience surveys, whatever the sentiment. This transparency can give patients confidence in the healthcare provider.

But there are exceptions, for both surveys and reviews.

Often, a patient may disclose some protected health information (PHI) in a complaint about the physician. The physician’s immediate response might be to defend themselves online, but that’s almost never the correct course of action.

Healthcare organizations should establish a process for handling situations where a patient posts an online comment that reveals PHI. Though it is not illegal for a patient to disclose their own PHI, physicians and practices are liable for publishing it. Comments should be monitored for PHI, with the identifying content being removed before it’s published, in accordance with the HIPAA privacy rule.

During a potential PHI exposure, follow a written response procedure that immediately coordinates with legal, patient advocacy and customer care staff. Your response should come within a couple days – hours, if possible. The longer PHI sits exposed to public view, the more troublesome it is.

Fast Replies Boost Your Reputation

Timely, effective responses depend on knowing how staff and review management software are monitoring reviews, who will respond and how to respond.

Time savings is one of the biggest, most tangible results of a review management service. Another is the ability to be aware of what is being said about your provider online. Service recovery in a timely manner is another. Using effective tools like Binary Fountain’s Health Analytics platform can lead to more visibility online, more appointments, more revenue and a better patient experience.

Remember, reviews aren’t just an opportunity to showcase happy customers or to find a squeaky wheel in your business. It’s an opportunity to improve your patient experience, and there’s no time to waste.


Want to learn more about how Binary Fountain can give your online reputation a boost?

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About the Author

Kieran McQuilkin
Content Marketing Specialist

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