Responding to web-based health review posts
Here are some suggestions about handling those less than kind comments and reviews online.
With sites like Health grades and Yelp receiving millions of unique visitors per month it’s understandable that a negative review would be a source of stress for physicians. It might even be tempting to respond to such a post if for no other reason than to explain an alternative theory for a less than stellar critique. Before you set the record straight, consider the potential unintended consequences.
While patients are free to publicly discuss whatever they wish about their healthcare experiences, physicians are limited by the law and a patient’s express authorization to disclose health information. Responding to comments, even those that are blatantly false, can compound a physician’s troubles by setting the stage for a privacy complaint. The best response is to advise the poster that you would be happy to discuss their experience and provide a number they may use to do so.
This is not to suggest that a physician has no recourse. Though the majority of posts will be construed as opinion, many sites will voluntarily remove posts that could be viewed as inflammatory or slanderous. An alternative approach when the identity of the poster is known is to contact the patient directly and work on finding a resolution to the root of the problem.
If, despite your best efforts a post remains on the site, understand that social media, like all forms of communication is subjective. Most patients realize this and will take the content of individual posts with a grain of salt.
Here are some additional suggestions about handling those less than kind comments:
- Find out if you can make a response - Some social media sites do not allow removal of posts, corrections, or rebuttals.
- Know that if it is posted on your practice's website, Facebook page or any of your business's social media sites, it can be deleted.
- Take a deep breath and carefully think before posting a response. It is easy to become unhappy about an unfair review and your first impulse may be to "set the record straight." The last thing you want to do is get into a war of words on social media. You never want your response to become the viral posting of the day or be mocked on Twitter.
- Be aware of healthcare privacy laws - unless you have the patient's permission, you cannot post any protected health information in response.
Here is a typical response for a negative patient experience review:
"We regret that you feel that you did not have a good experience with our practice. We try very hard to do a good job for all our patients. Because we respect the privacy of our patients, we cannot discuss this situation online. Please contact us at (phone) or (email) so that we can discuss your concerns."