Helpful Tips for Physicians to Handle Negative Patient Reviews

Helpful Tips for Physicians to Handle Negative Patient Reviews

Americans now trust and use review websites such as RateMDs, Healthgrades, ZocDoc and Vitals to find a healthcare provider. In the era of patient-powered health, this is the new word-of-mouth for physicians, hospitals and all other healthcare providers, which can attract new patients if leveraged correctly.

Healthcare is witnessing a paradigm shift and becoming more patient-centric. How people rate and review your practice sets perception in the mind of thousands of others who can be your future patients. According to an article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the trend of using online reviews and ratings to select physicians is growing rapidly. More and more people now prefer to refer to these websites before making the decision to visit a physician. Results of the survey show that 40% of patients think physician ratings on websites are “somewhat important” and of those who used the web to search for a physician, 35% selected a doctor based on good ratings. In addition, 27% of these web users reported avoiding a provider with bad ratings.

Potential patients take these reviews as experiences coming directly from patients who have already had a consultation at your practice. While positive reviews can help create a positive online reputation, just a few negative ones are enough to trigger a serious blow to your practice. Healthcare providers need to be proactive about what patients are saying regarding their practice online.

How can these negative reviews or comments have an impact on your practice?

The trend of posting reviews on doctor-rating sites is growing at a very fast pace. Patients have the privilege of posting anonymous comments about their experiences with a physician/hospital. Though it can be a vent out for a patient who isn’t satisfied with the health treatment or services, the bad part is that the Internet never forgets anything. Once a patient writes something negative about you or your practice, it becomes a permanent record that anyone who looks you up can find.

In the field of healthcare, it’s very rare to deliver 100% patient satisfaction, and one negative view can severely damage your online reputation. Also, if there are biased or incorrect views expressed on these sites, they could negatively harm your practice. If you stay ignorant or choose not to address these negative or biased views, it may sweep away the chance for many potential patients, who consult the Internet before booking an appointment with a physician, to visit your practice.

Never ignore unhappy patients or negative experiences they have stated

Capitalize on this! Strike up a conversation with these patients and own up to any mistake/mistakes that may have occurred. Just reassure in your conversation that your patients’ health is a matter of equal concern to you as well and will be dealt with as prime importance. Assure them that you’ll do your best to resolve all issues and provide the best healthcare services.

Take the first step to protect your online reputation and request your Online Reputation Assessment.

While dealing with negative reviews can be a bit tricky, you can turn them around by diligently responding to them. Always remember to keep HIPAA laws in mind. Try to be humble and apologize whenever you feel there was some lack in services. Focus on coming up with a solution for the problems. Your attitude about resolving issues and delivering the best possible services will be visible to all your patients and prospective patients. It indicates transparency within your medical practice and creates a sense of trust and credibility.

Keep in mind some basics:

Dos and don’ts for negative reviews


  • Thank the patient for posting the review.
  • Apologize for the inconvenience caused.
  • Demonstrate clearly that patient health is of utmost importance.
  • Offer another consultation at the patient’s convenience.
  • Provide an alternate platform to explain the situation.
  • Be willing to provide solutions and solve problems.
  • Reinforce the positives.


  • Don’t disclose any patient information publically.
  • Don’t counteract or overreact.
  • Don’t repeat any negative comments.
  • Don’t engage with patients who repeatedly post offensive reviews.
  • Don’t make excuses to cover up a fault.

As they say, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” By responding appropriately to reviews, feedback or complaints, you can gain the confidence of patients and potential patients who are reading the reviews. Trust and credibility are important pillars of a physician’s reputation, so you should strive hard to maintain them online, as well.

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