Dealing with Negative Online Reviews of Doctors

August 12, 2014
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Can one bad apple ruin it for the bunch? Yes, if you’re talking about online reviews.

Can one bad apple ruin it for the bunch? Yes, if you’re talking about online reviews.

Doctors train for many years and work very hard to maintain robust practices, so it is only natural that they are very protective about their reputations. As sites such as healthgrades.com and ratemds.com grow in popularity, it becomes harder and harder for physicians to manage their reputations online.Reputation Management, Review Management, Online Physician Reviews

So what happens when a patient posts a scathingly bad review?

The results may not be as bad as you would imagine. In fact, a study found that most patients had never checked their doctor’s reputation online at all. However, the same study found that patients are beginning to be more aware of physician reviews online and are likely to begin consulting online reviews of doctors in the future.

That means that a bad review may not be the end of the world right now, but could negatively impact a physician’s future business if he or she does not take steps to improve his or her image online.

Combating a Bad Review

The best way to combat a bad review is to fight fire with fire. While many doctors may feel the urge to discourage patients for posting reviews online, the exact opposite is the best response. Doctors should work with their marketing team to make a plan to encourage patients to post more reviews online.

Why? Because a recent analysis of online doctor ratings shows that more than three-quarters of all doctor reviews are overwhelmingly positive. Encouraging patients to go online and write a review is very likely to result in a higher number of positive reviews, which will help to mitigate the damage of any negative reviews.

When criticized in a public forum, it may be tempting for a doctor to respond publicly. In most circumstances, the doctor would be better served to either respond privately or not at all. Often the doctor’s other patients will publicly defend their doctor. If there is truth to the criticism, however, the physician should take steps to remedy any problems that led to the negative review.

What if a Negative Review Isn’t True?

Physicians should directly contact review sites if they believe a review is planted or false. While review sites will not remove reviews solely on the basis of their being negative, some will consider removing a review if it can be proven false or inaccurate. Most sites will require some kind of proof.

Lawsuits are rarely a good option for physicians seeking to vindicate themselves from a negative review, even if it is false. A lawsuit can draw more attention to a situation that will most likely go away on its own, and can negatively impact a physician’s relationship with his or her other patients. If the physician has proof that the negative review was planted by a competitor, a lawsuit may be appropriate and more successful than one against a patient. Doctors may be better served, however, by engaging patients and encouraging them to participate in the online community.