For Clinicians The Practice Handbook

How to Respond to Negative Patient Reviews

When you get a negative patient review, it is natural to feel hurt or angry, and worried it may hurt your clinic or practice. However, a poor patient review provides an important opportunity to show that you care about all the patient feedback you receive, whether it be good or bad.

An occasional negative review can be good for helping patients build trust, but too many can be an indication that there is something wrong.

Most people who leave negative feedback do so as a way to share their experience as a warning to other potential patients, they often do this in mind with establishing expectations and benchmarks.

Other negative patient feedback comes from a place of wanting to help clinics improve their service. It is important to remember that negative reviews rarely come from a place of ill-intent.

An effective response can help mitigate potential damage from a bad review and your response will help to reassure new and existing patients that you understand, and empathise with the patient behind the feedback. Studies have shown that your patients want to be heard individually and addressed personally. Your response will also establish that you actively try to reconcile any grievance, with an acceptable solution.

When responding to negative patient feedback, make sure to never reveal any protected health information, and cover these 4 areas in your response.

Now that you know why negative patient feedback exists and why it is not necessarily as bad as you may think. You may ask yourself, how do I respond to a negative review as a doctor?

We’ve outlined an example to respond to negative patient feedback below.

top tips on how to respond to negative patient reviews

1. Respond To The Patient Review Promptly

Responding to patient reviews promptly is key. The faster you respond to a negative review, the more it will help to negate any impact it may have. It’s best to aim to respond to negative (and positive) reviews within a 48 to 72 hour window.

2. Say Thank You and Sorry

When responding to a negative patient review it is vital to not become defensive. Your response can alter how the review is perceived when you acknowledge and show respect for the patient who has left the critical review.

For example let’s look at the review below

Mr. Griffiths didn’t spend a lot of time with me, I was in and out in 10 minutes. I expect more when I am paying to see a private dermatologist.

An appropriate response would be:

‘Thank you for your review, I take all reviews into consideration to understand how I can improve the service I provide and I’m sorry you did not feel content with the: appointment.’ 

You can substitute words as appropriate, creating a list that can be interchanged depending on the review ie: results of the treatment, care you received, hospital/clinic facilities

3. Offer to Resolve

Letting the patient know that you are invested in their further care is important. Giving them the opportunity for them to reach out if they feel comfortable, or simply letting them know that you would like to rectify the situation shows your devotion to a high level of care.

An appropriate add on to your response would be:

‘I would be more than happy to: speak with you again during a complimentary virtual appointment.’ Substitute phrases as appropriate e.g.: provide your feedback to the hospital/clinic, resolve your issue

4. Invite a Positive Response to Take the Conversation Offline

An appropriate way to end your response, is to invite a postive conversation offline. Here is an example:

‘Please don’t hesitate to contact me on (add telephone number) with any further concerns.’

After you’ve written your review check for typos – whilst this may seem like an obvious one, responses with poor grammar could work against you in creating a professional persona. You should ensure that you respond to all reviews equally with a positive voice, whether they are favourable or not. 

It is important to be as genuine as possible, and while this is a guide, don’t copy and paste your responses to negative feedback! Make sure the response you craft has your own personal touch on it.

So your full here’s what a negative review response example could look like:

‘Thank you for your review, I take all reviews into consideration to understand how I can improve the service I provide and I’m sorry you did not feel content with the appointment. I would be more than happy to speak with you again during a complimentary virtual appointment. Your aftercare and and treatment plan is very important to me, so please don’t hesitate to contact me on (add telephone number) with any further concerns.’

respond negative patient reviews doctor

Encouraging Patients To Leave a Review

The important thing to understand is that although there might not always be a resolution, the impact of a negative review can be turned around by: Responding quickly, an acceptance of the grievance, a genuine apology, an explanation, and an offer to resolve.

Packaged together this will ensure the best possible outcome of a negative patient review.

However, most healthcare professionals will have more positive than negative pieces of feedback.

The important part is that you show patients that you care about their experience – encourage them to leave a review wherever you can.

The easiest way to do this is to just ask them via email after every consultation via an automatic link that gets sent out after every appointment, or to have them complete the review in clinic with a Doctify Tablet and App. An email can end with:

‘Feedback is very important to me and I am very grateful for every review I receive’
You can then link to your Doctify review link.

In summary, patients have extremely high expectations for what they receive from medical services found through Doctify. When something goes wrong enough to warrant a negative review, a timely, positive, well worded response will have a positive long-term effect for how future patients see you.

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