Best Practices for Responding to Online Patient Reviews

Updated on November 23, 2022

Did you know that 84 percent of patients check online reviews before choosing a doctor? Because those reviews are so important, doctors should respond to both positive and negative patient reviews; that helps build a strong rapport with patients and establishes your practice as trustworthy. Still, addressing feedback can be tricky. So what’s the best way to interact with patients online?

How to Effectively Solicit Patient Feedback

To foster a transparent, honest, and communicative environment with patients, make reviews a priority. Physicians should ask for feedback immediately after appointments. For example, as patients check out, ask them if they have any questions or concerns. You can also mention how much you appreciate online reviews and provide patients with a card detailing how to leave one. Or, send them an automated follow-up text with a link to a confidential feedback survey.

You’ll want to engage with patients as soon as possible after their appointment to best understand their experience and how your team performed. However, you don’t want to force a review out of your patients. Coming on too strong can make it seem like you’re more interested in appearances than providing care. The goal is to provide easy, low-pressure opportunities for patients to offer honest, intentional feedback that brings value to you and your team’s work and experience.

Tips for Responding to Online Patient Reviews – Both Positive and Negative

Physicians and practices are limited by what they can say to patients outside of the examination room. Doctor-patient confidentiality is paramount, and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) ensures that all medical staff maintain this confidentiality. There are four violations and penalty levels your practice can incur if you’re not careful, and physicians should be mindful not to discuss health-related circumstances and experiences online. 

Negative Reviews as an Opportunity

Negative reviews, understandably, can be challenging to address. Patients may draft extensively detailed and sometimes hurtful feedback. Negative feedback can be hard to hear, but you should never add fuel to the fire by writing a dismissive or combative response. When addressing patients, remember—even though the conversation is online, responding to a patient review is still interacting with a patient and must comply with HIPAA guidelines.

Before typing that first draft, it helps to think honestly about where the patient is coming from and reflect on how your services could have contributed to their unfortunate experience. Meet the patient at a place of understanding and thank them for taking the time to leave feedback. 

Take care not to touch on sensitive information the patient may have already divulged. The best way to address concerns more personally is to offer to take the conversation offline. Give them a method to contact you directly and privately by leaving a callback number, an email, or a link to a contact portal to give them a way to continue the conversation.

Let’s say a patient posts a lengthy 1-star review recounting their poor experience at their appointment. They allege that your office staff was rude and unaccommodating, the wait time was excessively long, and you rushed your conversation with them. While your first instinct may be to dismiss these claims as exaggerations, pause and analyze the areas the patient points out where your practice could use some improvement. For instance, if your office has trouble with internal organization and an overbooked schedule, take this review as a signal to streamline your processes.

Remember that you don’t have to start from scratch when drafting a response to a review. It’s common to design a general response framework and adjust templates to fit each patient’s concerns. Using a template also helps to reduce the risk of inadvertently violating HIPAA guidelines. Consider engaging legal counsel to review replies and help you comply with HIPAA requirements. 

Positive Reviews as an Additional Patient Touchpoint

All reviews deserve a response, even the positive ones! While it may be tempting to let glowing reviews speak for themselves, you can maximize the impact of 5-star ratings by engaging with the patients who left them. Positive reviews are more than compliments; they’re additional patient touchpoints you can use to build stronger relationships and boost retention. Also, connecting with patients online shows new prospects that you’re engaged and will value their input.

With positive reviews, your reply should be simple—thank the patient for their kind words and say how much they mean to you and your team. 

Build Patient Trust, One Review at a Time

Today’s patients are proactive—they’re researching their symptoms and conditions, exploring possible treatment options, and shopping around for the physician and practice that best suits their needs. That’s why managing your reputation is so important! Follow these guidelines to build patient trust by effectively soliciting feedback and responding appropriately to reviews.