Dealing with Unfair Negative Reviews from Patients

Today I had a conversation with a client about handling unjustified negative feedback from a patient. There was a dispute about billing and the patient, rather than working with the office to resolve the issue, gave the office one star reviews on social media platforms and, worse, asked his non-patient friends to do the same.

Such unreasonable and undeserved negative reviews given to a good doctor by a vindictive patient will not only ruin the reputation of a good practice but also do a great disservice to the public. Other potential patients will be mislead by the negative review and will lose the opportunity to benefit from the quality care the practice provides.

Sometimes the customer support teams at Google or Facebook may be willing to remove such reviews, especially if these reviews are off-topic or come from someone who was never a patient of the practice. However, their help is not guaranteed. They may be too slow to respond or unwilling to help. Their reasons are understandable: Google and Facebook don’t want the system to be abused and don’t want to create a precedent that invites business to ask to remove all negative reviews.

If you are ever in that situation, I think that your best option is to respond to the negative review. Potential patients will read your responses and will see both sides of the story. Many people like to see a business respond to reviews – especially to negative ones! It shows you in a good light, and potential patients will see that you are responsive and that you care. So a negative review is not a disaster if you respond to it and clarify the situation. Respond not for the sake of the reviewer (you probably will not change their mind) but for the sake of other potential patients that will be reading the review.

Write your response in a polite, positive and constructive manner. Without giving out the patient’s personal and health information, briefly explain the situation so that others that read your response will understand what happened, and briefly describe the steps you took to resolve the situation and to try to help the patient. Conclude by saying that if the patient has further issues, your office is always willing to listen and help. If you write the response properly, potential patients will understand that the reviewer is unreasonable and vindictive. If the reviewer has never been a patient of your practice (as in the case of my client whose patient asked his friends to write bad reviews), you can say that the reviewer has never been a patient of the practice but if they have questions or concerns, they are welcome to contact your office and your office will answer any questions they have. Your goal is to show that you are calm, positive, and helpful.

A proper positive response minimizes and even nullifies the damage from a vindictive bad review. It may even help you look better to your other prospective patients. Prospective patients often like to read negative reviews to see how the practice deals with difficult issues. So take advantage of the dire situation and try to turn things in your favor. Yes, you CAN benefit even from an unfair negative review!

In addition, increase your efforts at collecting more positive Google and Facebook reviews from other patients. Set up a review collection process, if you don’t have any, or intensify your existing review collection campaign. Hopefully, more good reviews from your patients will soon bury the unfair negative review(s) you have received as a result of that unfortunate situation.

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