In February, we introduced a new monthly medical marketing series. Our first topic focused on the importance of developing a marketing strategy and introduced the basics of successfully marketing your medical practice in order to attract new patients and physician referrals.
One of the 5 steps we suggested is monitoring your online reputation. With social media and review and ranking sites, checking your online reputation is easy. Popular rating sites include ratemds.com, healthgrades.com, yelp.com, and vitals.com. Positive reviews are great for business, but what happens when you receive a bad review? Instead of becoming frustrated or defensive, treat it as an opportunity to correct the problem and find a solution—that way you actively monitor and shape your medical practice’s reputation. Practices that resolve issues quickly see the most positive turnaround.
In this post, we’ll focus on best practices to handle patient complaints on review sites. Remember, not all negative reviews are considered bad. Patients expect even the best businesses to have a few negative reviews; it balances the credibility of your practice.
Not all negative reviews are created equal. Some are less severe than others and can be resolved with a small change within the practice or with a quick apology. More severe reviews require immediate action. The worst require damage control and contacting the patient. In some cases patients include their name in the post—even if an abbreviated name is used, the posting date along with details of the patient’s story will help identify the patient.
Let’s take a look at 3 different examples from disgruntled patients:
- Patient Follow-Ups
“After I had my exam done, I wanted to go on antibiotics immediately, but Doctor ABC told me that she needed to wait for the results before she could prescribe me anything. I’ve been waiting for almost a week now and never got a call. So I went to another practice and they did the tests and I got my antibiotics in the same visit. I still haven’t heard from the other practice…”
What to do: View the lab results and find out why the patient was not contacted. Was there miscommunication with the follow-up time? Was a call placed but the patient never called back? Did someone really forget to follow-up with the patient? With this type of review, either cut your losses (if you have many positive reviews) and fix the problem internally without any external action, or apologize for the late follow-up if your practice is at fault. Diffuse the situation and make sure a mistake like this does not happen again.
- Staff Attitudes
“I just moved to town and was looking for a new doctor. I found XYZ practice in the local listings. My initial visit was horrible. The office manager was rude and unreasonable. I was so appalled by the way she treated me and all the other patients. Then I met the doctor, and he was abrupt, curt, and I felt like whenever he spoke to me, he was on auto-pilot, repeating the same things a hundred times. The whole visit was so unpleasant, impersonal, and robotic.”
What to do: Let’s face it, sometimes your physicians and staff can have an off day. Engage your staff and do your best to make sure they understand the appropriate way to handle and treat patients. Reach out to the patient and apologize. Patients understand that people have bad days. After assuring the patient of your sincerity and that it will not happen again, ask if s/he will modify the review and/or post a positive one explaining how the practice handled the situation. If the review was left anonymously, request that your happy patients go online and leave reviews at the end of their visits. If possible, set up a workstation so patients can post their reviews on a review site of your choosing.
- Patient Wait Time
“I brought in my daughter who had a 103-degree fever. The front desk told me to wait patiently and fill out some forms. I had to wait over an hour to see the doctor! Are you serious?! The front desk staff was utterly disorganized and unsympathetic. I am never coming back here again.”
What to do: This type of review needs to be addressed immediately—reach out to the parent. If the review was left anonymously, ask your employees if they remember which patient this was—most likely, one of them will remember, especially if s/he had to handle a disgruntled mother. First apologize, then ask questions about the daughter’s current condition: How is your daughter? Has she taken the medication that was prescribed? Is she feeling better? Offer to schedule a follow-up exam to make sure everything is progressing the way it should. Getting involved in the daughter’s recovery process will show that you are genuinely concerned. Once your attempts to improve the experience are acknowledged, kindly ask if the original review could be taken down or revised.
Remember, stay calm and maintain control. Don’t lose your cool or get angry. Engage disgruntled patients in a positive and friendly way. Help them see your practice in a new, more positive light. Make it part of your staff’s routine to encourage happy patients to post positive reviews so the good will always outweigh the bad.