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Avoid Bad Online Physician Reviews: 5 Tips


How can you avoid a bad review on Yelp, Vitals, or another site of that ilk? Experts shared five tips that will get your rankings up.

Googling your name and finding a nasty review from a patient is likely a distressing experience if you're a doctor. No one wants to be ripped to shreds, especially if they aren't sure what they did wrong. What's the plan to ensure that your practice doesn't get hammered on these sites?  Experts shared some tips with Physicians Practice that physicians can use to own the online review process. Here are a few:

1. Open the lines of communication. If a patient seems frustrated during his visit, ask him what is wrong, says Andy Pasternak, a family medicine physician in Reno, Nev. "Find out if there is anything you can do to remediate the situation," he says. "Sometimes you can come up with solutions; a lot of times you can't and you just have to take it as a negative hit."

Aaron Braun, the medical director at SignatureCare Emergency in Dallas, also advocates for this approach. "Encourage them to call or contact the office or provider immediately with any questions or concerns," he says.

2. Get them to say something nice. It's OK to ask patients to leave a good review on one of the physician review sites, says Anthony Oliva, the national medical director at Boston-based health tech company, Nuance.

Tod Baker, CEO of MDValuate, which provides physician performance analytics based on consumer-facing data, agrees with this approach. "I'd guess that most of the interactions between physicians and patients are positive. If the patient goes away happy and the physician is happy … what doesn't happen is the physician never asks the patient to help her do something with that [positive feeling]. My recommendation is if you have a happy patient ask that person to tell people," he says. "Tell them to go online and talk about their experience."

3. Be careful about responding to bad reviews immediately. Not only do you not want to say something inflammatory in the heat of the moment, you want to be careful about HIPAA and patient confidentiality, says Pasternak. It may make more sense for a physician to call a patient over the phone, he says. Responding online may only make it worse.

4. Get out in front of it. Some organizations have taken ownership of this trend and surveyed patients on their own. For many, it's hard to do that without available resources. Still, patient satisfaction scores are already part of government programs, through Medicare's Physician Quality Reporting System (PQRS) and the Hospital Quality initiative. Baker says in the near future, most value-based reimbursement efforts will tie in patient satisfaction scores. In other words, do it now or wait and do it at the last minute.

5. Get better. The best way to avoid getting hammered on physician review sites is to learn from mistakes you made and improve upon them, say experts. "If something is bad on there … find out if there was anything you could have done differently, so it doesn't happen again. That's the biggest thing. Don't put your head in the sand," says Oliva.

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