What should you do when you get a bad review or negative press online? For physicians, bad online reviews are a real problem and pose a significant repetitional threat. There are literally hundreds of healthcare review websites that contain doctor ratings. Most of these websites have fairly large traffic and therefore rank highly in search engine results.

If you’re the subject of online reviews that are negative or false, you understandably want to take action to defend yourself. Proceed with caution, however.

how doctors should respond to bad reviews online

First of all, you are unlikely to be able to get the website to remove the review, especially without expensive legal help. Tempted to ask other physicians, family, or friends to post good reviews to drown out the bad? You should absolutely NOT do that.

When you come across something that is negative about your business, about you personally, or about your health group in an online forum, the best way to respond is to take it offline immediately. In the Facebook video below, I’ll show you how to do this, and give you several reasons why this is so important. Among them is the simple fact that you aren’t going to win an online battle about your reputation by engaging in a hostile or defensive exchange with a patient.

It may be tempting, but there are a few things you should absolutely NEVER do in response to a bad review online. Here's what to do instead. #hcldr Click To Tweet

No matter how unjustified their comments and how thorough your defense, the most likely outcome is more harm than good. You will not change the mind of the person who posted the review, and you will certainly not improve how future review readers view you. You’ll end up looking worse for even trying.

However, if the platform allows responses, you can – and should – reply with a professional tone, empathy, concern for the quality of care and experience you provide, and an invitation to connect offline.

By responding to a bad online review in this way, you dramatically increase the likelihood that others will perceive you favorably regardless of the negative post.

And, if you’re lucky, the disgruntled patient may even decide to remove the review. (To be clear, I would never recommend you ask anybody to change their review, but they may come to their own decision to delete it.)

This video will also share a few tips about how to get more reviews – authentic, and probably favorable ones from your actual patients – on the rating sites that matter most. Finally, I’ll give you some closing ideas on how to make physician rating websites irrelevant and take control of your own professional image online. You have more control over that than you think!

This post and video are based on the chapter How to Respond to Negative Reviews or Online Press in The Social Prescription: How Savvy Doctors Can Leverage Digital Platforms for Professional Success.


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