Owning a private healthcare practice comes with many challenges that typical small business owners don’t have to worry about. The greatest responsibility is having patients, or “customers,” quite literally in their hands. And while that can be the challenge, it can also be incredibly rewarding.
Regardless of the industry of your business or practice, all business owners have a common denominator: an unhappy customer. In the case of healthcare, dissatisfied patients are inevitable and come with the territory of being a doctor.
However, in the last decade or so, there’s another aspect of owning a business that can be worrisome to physicians: online reviews. While having an online presence is crucial to businesses these days, the review aspect doesn’t always make it easy. Online reviews make it easy for unhappy patients to air their grievances and speak negatively of a doctor. Health review sites like Vitals, Healthgrades, and local listings are created with the users in mind, meaning business owners cannot remove or hide negative reviews.
If your practice is actively requesting feedback or giving your patients the means to easily review your practice, that’s a good sign. In fact, 70% of patients who leave online reviews have only positive things to say about their physicians and the care they received. Tactfully requesting feedback is essential when it comes to practice growth. Offering the ability for your patients to leave reviews in-office is optimal, via social media, email and text are additional channels.
The Effect of a Negative Review
Negative reviews can seem menial to some businesses in other industries – but not in healthcare. Patient reviews are highly influential. 94% of patients read online reviews before deciding to make an appointment with a doctor. They’re often held in the same respect as an in-person referral. So it is understandable that doctors can feel anxious about their health review sites, local listing profiles, and online review management.
However, the most important thing a doctor can do is to reply to every single review, especially the bad ones. Giving attention to an unhappy patient is showing that you and your practice care. This potentially turns a bad situation into a positive experience.
Unhappy patients focus their reviews on how they perceived their experience with a doctor or practice. It is not necessarily an subjective portrayal of the practice itself. However, it is important to take note of their dissatisfaction. A negative review can help in a lot of ways.
How a Negative Review Can be Used for Good
Negative reviews can actually be useful to a practice. Positive feedback encourages potential patients to book an appointment, negative ones can be just as helpful. Here’s how:
Bad Reviews Make the Good Reviews Even Better
Perhaps some reverse psychology is used here. When there is a poor review among a handful (or more!) of good reviews, the good reviews shine even brighter. All the good parts of your practice will be highlighted and have a more significant impact on whether or not a person makes an appointment.
Negative reviews next to positive reviews let patients make an unbiased opinion about your practice and provide well-rounded information.
Negative Reviews Build Trust
Believe it or not, having negative reviews scattered in with all of the positive reviews can actually build trust. It shows potential patients that you are not soliciting positive reviews and getting false praise. Almost every business, regardless of industry, has some kind of flaw. Potential patients may think you are hiding something if there are no negative reviews about your practice.
A few poor reviews won’t necessarily prevent someone from making an appointment. When there are only positive reviews, people may be suspicious and lose trust in the reviews that are public. Displaying all reviews help maintain transparency and allows you to connect better with patients.
Negative Reviews Let You Engage with Patients
All reviews, both good and bad, need to have a reply and some form of engagement. However, there needs to be a clear strategy on how to engage with negative reviews. If a disgruntled patient leaves a review explaining their dissatisfaction with you or your practice, it is not appropriate to reply with an equally rude or negative comment.
Instead, use this as an opportunity to tactfully acknowledge and take the conversation offline. Offer a solution, a phone number, or email address where they can contact someone at the practice to speak with about this issue. More times than not, a patient’s experience can be used to understand where there are gaps in patient experience, waiting room times, or even a physician’s bedside manner.
This is a great way to show how responsive you are, how to manage patients, and gives potential patients the comfort of knowing you care, even if someone had a bad experience. When done properly, there is a good chance that an unhappy patient can be converted into a loyal advocate for your practice.
A Smarter Way to Manage Online Reviews
Taking the time to monitor and respond to patient reviews online is a luxury many private practices do not have. This is because the physician doesn’t have the time or because the staff wears many hats on a daily basis. This is where using a third-party review management company can help.
58% of patients said they did not hear back from a physician or practice after sharing important feedback about their visit. Those providers are likely losing potential patients – and therefore not growing their practice – because of a lack of engagement.
Valet Health provides a comprehensive online review management and acquisition service that not only helps you get a higher number of quality reviews, but also manages and responds to reviews that come in on a daily basis. Our team works with your practice to properly handle negative reviews on local listing sites such as WebMD, Health Grades, and Google My Business.