Managing Online Patient Reviews: 5 Things to Avoid

By June 3, 2019 No Comments

HealthWare Systems Blog

Managing Online Patient Reviews: 5 Things to Avoid

Posted on Monday, June 3, 2019

It’s important to monitor online patient reviews of your facility because first impressions in healthcare often begin online.  The majority of patients search online before making health appointments.  Are your providers and organization making a positive first impression when patients read reviews on third party sites like Google, Yelp, and Healthgrades?

A doctor holds a smartphone showing online patient reviews.

Managing online patient reviews can help you improve your online reputation.

 

When managing online patient reviews, here are 5 things you should avoid:

 

1.)  Don’t ignore online patient reviews.

Online patient reviews can feel stressful and unfair to providers and their validity is debated.  However, patients pay attention to these reviews, so you should too.

Some organizations reply to online reviews, but there are other actions you can take to manage them as well.  For example, you may appeal a negative review if it is in violation of the review site’s policies, and the site may remove it.  You should also encourage satisfied patients to leave positive reviews.  If you don’t have many online patient reviews, even one or two negative ones stand out.  But numerous positive reviews can outweigh a few negatives.

 

2.)  Don’t acknowledge that the reviewer is a patient at your facility.

If you choose to reply to a review, do not write anything that could signify the reviewer is (or was) your patient.  Even if a patient explicitly states that he/she received care from your organization in the review, you cannot confirm that fact in your reply or you will be in violation of HIPAA.

 

3.)  Don’t make any statements specific to the patient.

In an attempt to defend themselves against negative online patient reviews, many providers have inadvertently revealed private patient information in their replies.  Not only does this result in HIPAA violations, but also the loss of patients’ trust.

 

4.)  Don’t leave a lengthy reply.

Rather than diving into a long defense, keep your reply simple and professional.  Establish clear, HIPAA-compliant guidelines for staff who respond to reviews.  Digital Marketer Daryl Johnson provides this example for negative reviews:

“Dear John, thank you for your feedback. At Good Smiles Dentistry, we take patient satisfaction seriously. In order to protect our patients’ privacy, we prefer to handle situations like these offline.

Would you be willing to call my office at 555-555-1212 and ask to speak with me so I can better understand the situation?

Thanks in advance for your help – Dr. Smith”

Likewise, HIPAA expert Dr. Danika Brinda says you should “keep it brief, keep it general, and move the conversation offline.”

You can then work to resolve the complaint directly and privately.  If the patient is satisfied with your response after speaking with you, he/she may agree to remove the negative review or update it to reflect the positive outcome.  At the very least, other patients who view your reply online will see your attempt at remedying the situation and your commitment to patient satisfaction.

 

5.)  Don’t assume you can publish a patient’s positive review as a testimonial.

Although online patient reviews are public, your organization cannot share them on your own website or marketing materials without receiving written consent/authorization from the patient.  Again, doing so can result in HIPAA violations.


Your online presence plays a crucial role in reducing patient uncertainty about your facility and providers.  If you’re not monitoring your online reviews, patients may be getting the wrong idea about your organization.  Plus, these reviews can provide you with valuable insight into what matters most to patients and how you might improve your services.

Managing online patient reviews using the suggestions above (while avoiding HIPAA violations) can help you improve your online reputation and even mend relationships with patients who were previously unsatisfied.


By Stephanie Salmich

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