How To Navigate Negative Patient ReviewsPosted: May 4, 2022 - By Health Dev
We’ve got some bad news. Even the best medical practices sometimes get negative reviews. While they’re never fun to read —some can be pretty scathing — they’re an unfortunate fact of life.
Now for the good news. A few negative patient reviews won’t necessarily hurt your practice if you address them appropriately. That’s right. As tempting as it can be to ignore negative comments, taking the time to acknowledge and deal with complaints from dissatisfied patients can help you maintain your overall positive reputation.
However, it’s not only about the act of responding. It’s also about how you respond.
How Negative Patient Reviews Can Impact Your Reputation
You put a lot of work into building a good reputation for your practice. You do everything you can to ensure that every patient has a great experience. While negative reviews can quickly tarnish your hard-earned reputation, they also offer opportunities for improvement.
Prospective Patients May Be Discouraged by a Bad Review
People looking for a medical practice — or any other type of service — generally start their search online. Just over 70% of prospective patients use online reviews as the first step in finding a new provider. What’s more, 84% trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations from friends or family.
No matter how long you’ve spent cultivating your reputation, seeing a negative review (or a few) could impact a prospective patient’s initial impression. The feedback could even dissuade them from scheduling an appointment.
Your Overall Rating on Review Sites Can Also Affect Your Medical Practice
Negative patient reviews can impact your overall rating on review sites, such as Google, Yelp, and medical practice-specific platforms. Some patients may not even take the time to read reviews for a medical practice if the overall rating is low. In essence, a low rating could cost you patients and revenue.
Your overall rating could also impact how your medical practice ranks on search engine results pages (SERPs). Research shows that the first organic result averages just over 25% click-through rate (CTR), while the second and third results average 15% and 11%, respectively. The CTR continues to decrease, with the tenth result averaging only 2.5%.
In other words, your rating could impact your website traffic. Depending on where you rank, prospective patients may not even see you.
A Good Response Can Mitigate a Negative Review
While all of this may feel like horrible news — it certainly isn’t great — it doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do about it. You do have the option to respond to both positive and negative reviews, and you should. After all, not saying anything at all is a type of response. It sends the message that you don’t care about your patients or what they have to say.
Instead, take the time to craft a good response. Doing so can mitigate the impact of negative feedback by showing prospective patients that you care about your patients and their experiences. At the same time, it may also change the opinion of the patient who left the feedback in the first place.
How To Respond to Online Reviews About a Negative Experience
Patients are more likely to favor a practice that responds to its reviews, positive and negative. What you say — and how you say it — also matters. Here are a few helpful tips for how to respond to negative feedback.
1. Take a Deep Breath and Craft a Thoughtful Response
Getting a negative review can be upsetting, especially when you put so much effort into ensuring all of your patients receive high-quality care and experiences with your practice. It can be even more disconcerting when you know the feedback is false.
As tempting as it may be to write a response right away, step back, take a deep breath, and give yourself some time to think. How you respond will reflect on you and your practice. When crafting your reply, be respectful, even if you believe the patient is in the wrong. You’ll gain nothing by sounding defensive or angry. In fact, doing so will only hurt you more.
2. Apologize for the Patient’s Bad Experience
When writing your response, apologize for the patient’s negative experience. Acknowledging the complaint and offering a sincere apology doesn’t only mean something to the patient who wrote the review, although a genuine “sorry” can increase satisfaction by 74%. It also means something to prospective patients looking for practices like yours. It demonstrates that you prioritize their care.
In addition to your apology, let the patient know that you want to make things right. Offer them an opportunity to reach out to your practice. Or you could reach out to them. Avoid trying to resolve the issue on the review site.
Despite a respectful reply, the patient may still be upset and decide to fire back. To avoid an argument — and any potential misunderstandings — take the conversation offline after your initial response.
3. Alter Office Policies Based on Negative Feedback or Patient Complaints
While negative feedback can be painful, it can also provide insight into problems you might not have known existed. For instance, patients may be waiting longer than you thought to see a doctor. They may feel their physician rushed them through their appointment and that they weren’t able to address all of their concerns.
Bad comments can be a good opportunity to review your office policies and adjust them to address patient complaints. And, if you do enact changes, let your patients know you’ve heard what they have to say and show them what you’ve done to make the situation better. Again, this demonstrates that you care and can help you get more positive reviews going forward.
How Online Reputation Management Software Can Help
Negative feedback can hurt. It can also impact your reputation as a medical practice, especially if you seemingly ignore it. Rather than let the comment sit on a review site, address it. That lets the unsatisfied patient, as well as prospective patients, know that you care.
How you handle the negative feedback also matters. Be respectful, let the individual know you hear them, and offer to continue the conversation off of the review platform. Then, when possible, use the feedback to make your practice better.
More patients than ever before are turning to the internet to find medical practices. More often than not, they’re using reviews to evaluate and choose their healthcare providers.