How to Respond to Negative Reviews Online

typing on a laptop computer
typing on a laptop computer
The majority of patients consider a positive online reputation to be very or extremely important when selecting a healthcare provider. We review some do's and don'ts of responding to negative reviews online.

Before deciding where to eat, what show to watch, or which new gadget to buy, most consumers go online and read customer reviews. A recent survey from SEO marketing firm BrightLocal found that 82% of shoppers read customer reviews and the average person looks at 10 before feeling able to trust a company.1

The same concept applies to prospective patients. A PatientPop survey found that 7 in 10 people consider a positive online reputation to be very or extremely important when choosing a healthcare provider. What’s more, patient satisfaction doubles when the practice addresses negative feedback.2

What are some do’s and don’ts of responding to negative reviews online?


1. Take the conversation offline

After a patient posts a negative review, acknowledge their comment online and say you’d love to discuss their concerns over the phone or in person. Not only will the unhappy patient feel heard, but you’ll also demonstrate to prospective patients that you are willing to address your patients’ concerns privately and professionally.

2. View things from the patient’s perspective

Ask yourself why the patient felt the way he or she did and whether there’s anything you or your staff could have done to prevent the problem. Consider whether the complaint is a recurring issue or an isolated incident. If it’s the former, think about what adjustments you can make to improve the patient experience at your practice. Reflecting on missteps may prompt you to address underlying issues.

3. Thank the reviewer

As painful as it might be to thank someone who is being critical of your practice, it’s an important thing to do. Remember that negative feedback can lead to improvement. Thank the reviewer for taking time out of their day to share their experience and demonstrate that you are taking it to heart by making necessary changes.

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1. Disclose patient information

HIPAA rules apply online just as they do in person. Despite this, a 2016 investigation by ProPublica uncovered numerous instances of clinicians compromising patient privacy when responding to negative reviews.3 Keep your responses to general policy and process information, then direct the reviewer to continue the conversation offline.

2. Get defensive

You’ll never win over a patient by snapping back at them. Rather than justify your side, acknowledge the patient’s perspective and show concern that they didn’t have a positive experience.

3. Respond immediately

It’s natural to respond emotionally when confronted with negative comments about your practice. That’s why it’s important to walk away and allow yourself time to take everything in. If you’re upset, you can vent to a friend or family member. Only once your emotions are in check – even if it’s a day later – will you be able to respond thoughtfully and avoid escalating the situation.

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  1. Murphy R. Local consumer review survey 2019. BrightLocal. December 11, 2019. Accessed February 6, 2020.
  2. The patient perspective 2019: online reputation survey. PatientPop. April 4, 2019. Accessed February 6, 2020.
  3. Ornstein C. Stung by Yelp reviews, health providers spill patient secrets. ProPublica. May 27, 2016. Accessed February 6, 2020.