In today’s highly connected world, it’s definitely important for doctors, clinics, specialists, and hospitals to establish a solid online presence. When done correctly, engagement and Internet marketing can be a wonderful way to attract new patients and keep existing ones informed and involved. However, one of the potential pitfalls associated with being active online for medical professionals is the possibility of receiving negative feedback. But if you handle not-so-flattering comments correctly, you can still maintain your reputation.
1. Acknowledge Valid Feedback and Try to Have Fake Comments Removed
It’s possible for some negative feedback to be suspicious. This is especially true if the posts are vague or attributed to a generic user name. With comments that are obviously fake, contact the review site and present your evidence so the deceptive comments can be removed. With honest criticism, sincerely acknowledge the patient’s feedback and apologize for their lack of satisfaction with their experience during their visit to your practice.
2. Take a Breather Before Responding to Harsh Criticism
With particularly strong criticism from a disgruntled patient, take a moment to compose yourself before responding. The last thing you want to do is completely dismiss patient comments as being totally false or get into a back and forth debate that other current and potential patients can watch play out with a series of angry posts.
3. Don’t Ask Patients to Take Down ‘Bad’ Reviews
Avoid the temptation to either politely ask that negative comments be removed or make subtle threats about lawsuits. Most people will appreciate sincere responses to not-so-nice comments left by patients and evidence that you honestly made an effort to address or resolve the problem. Plus, some patients will update their comments if they are satisfied with your response and follow-up efforts.
4. Consider the Patient’s Perspective
It’s not unusual for people dealing with health-related problems to take their frustrations out on doctors or healthcare staff. This sometimes means little things get amplified. If the major complaint is about excessive waiting, for instance, you might respond by saying: “The average waiting time in a physician’s office is about 20 minutes. If you had to wait longer than this, it was probably because we were giving some extra attention to patients expecting the same level of care you deserve. We sincerely apologize for your inconvenience. We’ll make every effort to make your next visit more efficient.”
5. Take Potentially Sensitive Complaints Offline
Patient comments about things like office decor, attitudes of the medical staff, or customer service are all fair game and should remain posted publicly online. But if a patient starts discussing their condition and specific steps you took with diagnosis and treatment attempts, be mindful of HIPAA regulations about privacy. Politely explain the HIPAA issue and request that the discussion be taken private or continued on the phone or in person.
It’s just as critical to be proactive with what’s being said about your practice or facility online. One way to do this is to use software to detect online mentions to determine if what’s being posted is positive or negative. If you do have some valid criticisms that are lingering online, another way to minimize the impact is to produce a steady flow of relevant, useful content via your blog, website, or social media platforms that’s likely to generate positive responses.