As most physicians today know, online reviews can hurt or help a practice. A single disgruntled patient who was made to wait can post about their experience and make it seem like your practice is the model for rudeness and inefficiency.
Even worse, patients who don't get what they want from their doctor—whether they need it or not—get angry, and angry people love to vent online. For example, the patient with a virus who can't convince their physician to prescribe an antibiotic can easily post an inflammatory review about the poor care they received and how once they found a different doctor and got the antibiotics, they were cured. Obviously, patients have come to expect an antibiotic even when it may not be needed, but defending yourself from the online mob can be very difficult.
So what is the best way to react to negative reviews that you feel are not representative of the level of care that you deliver in your practice?
As in most things, the best defense is a good offense. Your patients understand the power of the internet—they read reviews, too. We have discovered that, if you ask them, they will help you make sure you have an army of good reviews posted to drown out the bad.
Our clients are fortunate in that they have concierge patients. Concierge patients "love" their doctors. We survey patients annually and it's always the same. Just the very nature of having a patient commit to their physician and invest in their health with an annual membership fee means they value and respect their physician. If they didn't, they would not pay to be a member. These patients feel partnered with their doctor and will often gladly provide support.
Most doctors don't have a select group of concierge patients, but surely they have deep, long-standing relationships with patients. Perhaps you were able to help a special patient through a unique health situation? Your patients are grateful for the support you offer. Don't be shy! Ask them to post a review of your practice on Google or Healthgrades.
Over time, these reviews from happy patients say more than the one or two bad reviews that may be posted.
And, don't forget—you can dispute reviews with many websites, like Yelp or Google. Negative reviews that are false should be marked as such. If you can't get it taken down, you can respond. Be sure to remain calm and professional and never reveal anything about the patient's medical situation, as that could be a HIPAA violation.