Responding to Online Patient Reviews: Best Practices for Healthcare Providers

May 9, 2024

Online reviews are a significant influence on a healthcare provider’s reputation. Both positive and negative feedback on platforms such as RealPatientRatings.com, Google, Healthgrades, RateMDs, and Yelp can impact potential patients’ decisions. Hence, responding appropriately to these reviews is crucial, not only to maintain a positive public image but also to comply with healthcare regulations like HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act). Here’s a guide on how to handle online patient reviews effectively and ethically.

Why Respond to Online Reviews?

Building Trust and Reputation: Responding to reviews shows that a healthcare provider values patient feedback and is committed to improving their services. This engagement can enhance the provider’s reputation and build trust with both current and potential patients.

Enhancing Visibility: Active responses to reviews can improve a provider’s visibility on search engines. Platforms often favor profiles that engage more with patients, potentially leading to higher search rankings.

Learning and Improving: Reviews provide direct feedback from patients, offering valuable insights into their experiences. This information can be instrumental in identifying areas for improvement in patient care and operations.

How to Respond to Positive Reviews

Express Gratitude: A simple thank you goes a long way. Acknowledge the reviewer’s effort in writing the review and express gratitude for their positive feedback. For instance:

“Thank you for your kind words! We’re thrilled to hear you had a positive experience with us and appreciate you taking the time to share it.”

Reinforce Positive Comments: Highlight any specific praises mentioned by the reviewer to reinforce positive sentiments and indicate that these are priorities for your practice. For example:

“We’re glad you found our staff friendly and helpful!”

Invite Further Engagement: Encourage satisfied patients to return or use more services. A gentle invitation can enhance patient loyalty, such as “We look forward to seeing you again soon for your next appointment!”

How to Respond to Negative Reviews

Keep Calm and Professional: Always respond professionally, regardless of the review’s tone. Acknowledge the patient’s concerns without being defensive.

Offer to Resolve Issues Offline: To maintain privacy and comply with HIPAA regulations, suggest moving the conversation to a private channel like phone or email, such as “We’re sorry to hear about your experience and would like to learn more about what happened. Please contact us at [contact information] so we can address your concerns directly.”

Show Commitment to Improvement: Demonstrate that you take feedback seriously and are committed to making necessary improvements, such as “Your feedback is invaluable, and we are committed to improving our services to ensure a better experience for all our patients.”

Staying HIPAA Compliant: When responding to any review, remember to remain HIPAA compliant by not disclosing any personal or medical information about the reviewer, even if they have revealed such information in their review. Keep responses general and focused on your procedures and offerings, rather than specific patient incidents.

Learning from Negative Reviews: Negative reviews can be a goldmine of insights if approached with the right mindset. Use these reviews to:

  • Identify patterns that might indicate systemic issues within your practice
  • Engage with staff about the importance of patient experience and areas for improvement
  • Update training protocols or operational practices to address the issues raised

Responding to online patient reviews is a critical aspect of managing a healthcare provider’s reputation. By engaging positively with both complimentary and critical feedback, while maintaining professionalism and compliance with healthcare laws like HIPAA, providers can enhance their reputation, improve service quality, and build stronger relationships with their patients. Remember, every review is a chance to improve and show your commitment to patient care.

 

Further Reading:

  1. MGMA