Patients have more avenues than ever to express themselves online, whether on social media, through physician rating sites like RateMDs, Vitals and Healthgrades as well as even Yelp.
Doctors are getting rated just like professionals in any other industry, and it pays to know how to handle criticism.
No matter how professional and caring a doctor you may be, no doctor will receive universally positive reviews. Here is some advice.
Many doctors dislike being rated at all, but to succeed in the online world you shouldn’t ignore reviews. Instead, approach online ratings proactively. You’ll find yourself better able to influence the online conversation about you, fix any shortcomings in your practice, and engage critical patients in a positive, constructive way.
When a patient posts critical comments, it’s important to know how to respond:
1. Listen to the criticism.
Patients may leave online reviews because they feel this is the only way they can have a voice.
After patients leave your exam room, often you don’t know what they thought about you or your practice. The criticism might not even be about you. You don’t know what patients thought about the nurses or medical assistants, or if they were concerned about the parking or whether the waiting room magazines were up to date.
These are issues you may not be aware of—but they matter to patients. By listening to online criticism, you can identify and fix easily correctable situations and improve patients’ satisfaction scores.
2. Take critical conversations offline.
Whenever you see criticism on the web, there’s a strong temptation to respond to it immediately. You want to set the record straight and clear the air.
Instead, take the conversation offline. An online argument is unlikely to result in anything productive.
Post a standard reply thanking the patient for the comment and asking him or her to call the clinic. Be careful not to reveal any private patient information. If you can resolve the dispute over the phone or in person, the patient may take down the comment or even add an addendum stating, “You know what? This office is actually listening to what I have to say.”
That can turn a negative situation into a more constructive one. Take the same approach whether the patient’s comment is on a ratings site or on social media. If you’re employed by a hospital or health care system, coordinate your efforts with your marketing or public relations team, who are likely to see an offline conversation as the most beneficial solution for both you and the organization.
3. Read the fine print.
If you believe any online comments are suspicious, contact the rating site to see if the comments violate the terms of service agreement.
For example, some rating sites have terms of service agreement that prohibit anyone from posting multiple ratings on a single doctor. Ask the company to investigate.
In general, always read the terms of service agreement and report any possible violations.
4. Ask more patients to rate you online.
Most patients generally like their doctors, and dozens of studies show that a majority of online ratings are positive.
By asking more patients to rate you online, you can make negative ratings look more like outliers.
In the surgical world, there’s a saying about irrigating an abscess: