For the most part, the doctor–patient relationship is one based on mutual respect. However, there are times when we can’t give the patients what they want, whether that is an inappropriate prescription or a diagnostic test they don’t need. We understand patients get upset when their wants are not met. Most patients also understand these limitations.
However, some will threaten lawsuits or bad online reviews. It doesn’t only happen to the treating doctor, but some doctors have also been attacked in their online reviews for speaking out on issues such as vaccines and COVID-19. This can harm a doctor’s online reputation, especially if they are just starting out. While it is possible to get bad reviews taken down, it takes a lot of time, which most doctors don’t have.
That being said,, we should not give in to inappropriate demands just to avoid negative reviews online. People will do what they will, and most people realize that patients who are upset are more likely to leave a bad review than someone who had a good experience.
How can we handle online reviews?
- If it is an inappropriate review, flag it and try to get it removed. When there are many reviews, such as getting attacked by a host of online strangers, then it might be worth consulting a company that specializes in this. There are now organizations that help physicians in this regard.
- Never respond to a negative review. Even if you are careful, it is easy to violate HIPAA regulations. It also makes you look defensive, which may give some degree of credence to what the review is saying. The best response is no response.
- Ask your favorite patients to leave reviews for you. They probably have many good things to say about you but just never thought to write a review for you. By asking for a review (without being pushy), you can help drown out the bad ones.
- Remember not to take it personally. When people choose to “punish” us by ripping us apart in our reviews, they are just lashing out at something they perceived as being wrong. Not everyone has to like us. Sometimes we have to say no. It may be demoralizing to read something bad about yourself online, but this is just one person, and there are probably many more who think you’re a great doctor. Don’t let one person’s opinion bring you down.
- Request anonymous feedback. If you find yourself getting many negative online reviews, create a comment or opinion box for patients. Maybe you have one receptionist who is mean to your patients, for instance. Patients may not leave a review about that person, but it will be about you. Take to heart any repeated concerns. You might learn about an issue in your office that you may have previously been unaware of.
While nobody likes to hear negative feedback, it is not the end of our reputation when it happens. Some people think they can hurt us by doing this, but it will only happen if we let it. Our reputations are so much more than what someone can read about us online. Our colleagues, hospitals, healthcare workers, and community play a much larger role in building our true reputation. Our real-life day-to-day interactions should be more important than anything that can be written online. As for me, I rarely read my online reviews. I’d much rather hear anything my patients have to say directly from them.