The internet giveth and taketh away – this is the reality facing many business owners as they deal with negative online reviews about their products or services. Unfortunately, the same is true for medical professionals.
As a healthcare business, you can use the internet to establish a solid online presence and promote your practice. But that also means you are more vulnerable than ever to patients’ negative reviews that can tarnish your reputation for good. What’s more, responding to healthcare reviews is wading in sensitive waters and requires extra care and caution to execute.
To regain trust in your practice and prevent business from plummeting, a robust healthcare reputation management strategy is necessary. You also need a team of review monitoring and response professionals who understand how to respond to negative reviews and do it right every time.
But before diving into review response best practices, let’s look at some 2022 trends affecting the healthcare review landscape.
Challenges Faced in Hospital Reputation Management
Hospitals are inundated with tasks that no other industry experiences. From delivering quality care and treating and preventing infections to maintaining hospital security and improving patient experience – everything is at stake.
In the age of the COVID-19 pandemic, things have not gotten simpler, to say the least.
With mounting priorities and concerns, it’s understandable that brand reputation management would be put on the backburner. In effect, no one is working to obtain valuable hospital reviews or responding to the ones being received:
Now, let’s dive deeper into the challenges affecting hospital reputation management:
Attracting Positive Hospital Reviews
The importance of online reviews to your bottom line cannot be said enough. As more patients today rely on the information they find online, you have everything to gain from generating positive online reviews.
Patients place value on online ratings and reviews, with over 50 percent of patients (Reputation, 2021) saying they have based their selection of a doctor or hospital through reviews.
Despite the importance of online reviews in attracting patients, 65 percent of physicians and 50 percent of healthcare facilities received zero reviews in 2020 (Reputation, 2021). One reason is that patients are not inclined to leave reviews, while hospital staff members are too busy to ask patients for reviews.
No Time To Respond to Hospital Reviews
Review disproportionality is also a common problem in brand reputation management, with customers more inclined to share negative experiences than positive ones.
According to Inc, only one in 10 happy customers is willing to share positive experiences. Meanwhile, dissatisfied customers are likely to tell 9 to 15 other people about their negative experiences (White House Office of Consumer Affairs via Inc).
This type of disproportionality exists even in the healthcare industry, with patients more likely to leave a negative review than a positive one. When that happens, reputation management consultants recommend addressing the feedback publicly to reduce its impact by as much as 70 percent.
In fact, 66 percent of patients feel it’s vital that their healthcare providers know how to respond to a negative review. But with hospitals today struggling with continued staffing shortages, they don’t have anyone on staff to offer a curated response to bad review feedback.
The internet has democratized people’s opinions, making it easy to write a review after a negative experience and leaving it open to public scrutiny. While some reviewers are willing to engage in a constructive discussion, you will also encounter heavily worded, uncompromising reviews that can be hard to navigate. Due to the sensitive, life-altering nature of healthcare concerns, this is highly understandable.
In this scenario, any attempt at engaging the person only exacerbates the situation and leads to more negative online publicity. As a result, hospital staff members are hesitant to handle or appease negative reviewers and would rather ignore them altogether.
HIPAA Regulations Restricting Responses
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability (HIPAA) law has set rules and regulations regarding sharing of protected health information (PHI) of patients.
Under HIPAA, hospitals and healthcare providers must be careful in sharing patients’ information to minimize privacy risks. Only minimum necessary information should be disclosed in public forums. Failure to comply could lead to fines or even criminal charges, making the review response process more complicated.
Why Responding the Right Way Is Crucial in Healthcare Reputation Management
Review response is critical in hospital reputation management because it impacts patient trust. How you respond to both positive and negative reviews affects your relationship with the patient in question, as well as future patients who come across your response. For instance, if a negative review remains unanswered, the patient with a negative experience feels ignored, leading to more negative perception.
On the other hand, being quick to offer a response to bad review comments acknowledges the complaint and demonstrates your commitment to improving patient experience. It shows you’re serious about building patient trust by being transparent with your shortcomings and taking the initiative to improve your services based on the feedback.
But it’s not just about leaving a response. According to Rize Senior Reputation Manager Tim Clarke, it’s about responding the right way.
“Positive reviews are easy because you just have to say thank you [then] write a custom response,” Clarke said. “[But for negative reviews], you have to be polite in the response even if the patient is mad and verbally abusive. You have to de-escalate the situation, which is where the expertise of online reputation management companies matters lie.”
How To Respond to a Negative Review the Right Way
There are many reasons why a patient might leave a negative review. They could be unmet expectations or negative experiences, which patients feel merit an acknowledgment, explanation or apology.
While it’s natural to feel that receiving negative feedback leads to negative consequences, knowing how to respond to a negative review could improve your online reputation. The ability to turn negative feedback into an opportunity for improvement is what makes healthcare reputation management so valuable.
Knowing how to respond can make all the difference when dealing with negative hospital reviews. It allows you to re-build trust and credibility and convert a complaint into something positive.
Here are some general tips for dealing with negative reviews, followed by negative review response examples:
Acknowledge the Complaint Quickly
Ignoring reviews is never a good move, especially if it involves a disgruntled patient whose experience was so bad they had to sound off about your service. Waiting to provide a response to bad review also makes it seem like you don’t care enough to acknowledge the negative experience, antagonizing the patient more and eroding patient trust.
Ideally, your acknowledgment should be provided within 24 hours of receiving the complaint or feedback to show you take the matter seriously.
Offer a Sincere Apology
Your priority in responding to a negative review is de-escalating the situation. The best way to accomplish this is by, first, acknowledging the mistake. Next is to apologize. Even if the reviewer is being unreasonable or you are not at fault, offering an apology shows that you’re dedicated to improving patient experience, hence, showing empathy.
However, you won’t be able to accomplish that with canned responses. With so much time spent on the internet, patients have become savvier than ever and can easily see through scripted replies. So instead, personalize your response to show sincerity.
Explain the Situation
In many cases, providing context to a situation can help clear any misunderstanding immediately. Provide an explanation whenever appropriate to help resolve any issue that might have occurred. It’s not about providing an excuse to protect misbehaving staff members but about explaining why something happened the way it did. It shows that you’ve looked into the situation and demonstrates it to the patient and future readers.
However, be reminded that you’re bound by HIPAA regulations, which means the amount of information you can share in your response is limited. Therefore, be quick in your explanation and, as much as possible, avoid being too specific to remain compliant.
Take the Conversation Offline
Discussing a sensitive matter online is never a good idea, especially when dealing with an angry or disgruntled patient. Although attempts to de-escalate the issue might help, some patients might still fire back even if you respond with care. You may attempt to explain. But if it merits a longer explanation involving specifics, it’s best to take the matter offline.
Communicate to the user that you’re committed to resolving the matter quickly and that the best way to do that is to talk with you directly. Leave a phone number or email address and ask the patient to contact you through these channels.
Negative Review Response Examples
Here are a few negative review response examples that you can follow when dealing with negative reviews:
The wait times are atrocious! I waited for TWO hours just to see Dr. Kim despite being only a half an hour early for my appointment! On top of that, the receptionist was rude and didn’t even try to listen when I tried to talk to her. I will definitely NOT be going back!
Thank you for your feedback, [patient name]. We understand how this could be frustrating. It has always been our policy to allow ample time between patients to avoid long wait times. Although we strive to enforce our policy as much as we can, we do occasionally fall short due to unforeseen circumstances. We do apologize for any inconvenience. Please feel free to contact us through this number 555-555-0123 if you’d like to discuss this matter further.
This dentist is a scam. My friend and I were both complaining about a toothache and went to the same dentist but received different treatments despite wanting the same thing. And I was charged DOUBLE what she paid which was ridiculous! I’m never ever going back!
Thank you for your feedback, [patient name]. Our goal is to customize our patients’ experiences to make their visits as comfortable as possible. However, due to HIPAA privacy laws and respect for the privacy of our patients, we cannot publicly address specific treatments or billing complaints. Please feel free to contact us at [email protected] or call us at 323-222-3333 to discuss this matter further.
Navigating a Complicated Brand Reputation Management Landscape
Although the reputation management landscape has become increasingly complicated, Rize offers reputation management services to streamline the entire process for you.
Here are some benefits you can enjoy when you let expert reputation management consultants like Rize handle your review monitoring and response activities:
Seamless Review Monitoring and Generation
Rize Reviews offers a more streamlined approach to review monitoring and generation. We use our reputation management tool to monitor online reviews and launch review generation campaigns to improve your online presence.
Dedicated Response Team
The Rize review response team has worked extensively with doctors and medical practitioners to help write appropriate responses while remaining compliant with HIPAA regulations. Additionally, you can easily train our team and provide them with style guides after signing up if you want more customized responses.
The Rize team doesn’t use automated or cookie-cutter responses when responding to reviews. Instead, we use a manual and human approach to carefully craft appropriate and genuine responses to add a personal touch to each interaction. This saves you a lot of time and headaches, especially when dealing with negative reviews.
The importance of online reviews becomes more evident in an industry where customers rely on online reviews to evaluate the quality of care and patient experience. Within this landscape, maintaining a stellar online reputation through online reviews is crucial. Online reputation management (ORM) companies like Rize can help.
Rize Reviews offers reputation management services to help you maintain a solid online reputation more seamlessly. Through our reputation management tool, you can automate your ORM activities and protect your reputation to leverage the power of online reviews in building a robust online presence. Contact our reputation management experts to get started.