By Kevin Pho, MD, Founder and Editor, KevinMD.com
No matter how professional and caring a doctor you may be, eventually you will face criticism on the web. Here are five keys to managing that criticism.
- Listen to the criticism. Patients may leave online reviews because they feel this is the only way they can have a voice. By listening to online criticism, you can identify and fix easily correctable situations and improve patients' satisfaction scores.
- Take critical conversations offline. Whenever you see criticism on the web, there's a strong temptation to respond to it immediately. You want to set the record straight and clear the air. Instead, take the conversation offline. An online argument is unlikely to result in anything productive. Post a standard reply thanking the patient for the comment and asking him or her to call the clinic. Be careful not to reveal any private patient information.
- Read the fine print. If you believe any online comments are suspicious, contact the rating site to see if the comments violate the terms of service agreement.
- Ask more patients to rate you online. Most patients generally like their doctors, and dozens of studies show that a majority of online ratings are positive. By asking more patients to rate you online, you can make negative ratings look more like outliers. Ask your patients to post a review if there's something they like about you or what your practice is doing, or if they have any suggestions for your practice. Don't cherry-pick patients or pressure them to say something positive about your practice, but ask for a rating from every single patient in a low-key and low-pressure way.
- Resist the urge to sue. Only rarely have doctors successfully sued rating sites, which may argue that removing negative ratings is an infringement of a patient's right to free speech. By suing patients over criticism, you will only bring more attention to it and highlight the negative reviews.
We now live in a world where doctors are rated like professionals in many other industries, a trend that will continue to grow. Many doctors dislike being rated at all, but to succeed in the online world you shouldn't ignore reviews. Instead, approach online ratings proactively. You'll find yourself better able to influence the online conversation about you, fix any shortcomings in your practice, and engage critical patients in a positive, constructive way.
For more tips on social media and online issues, visit The Doctors Company social media resource center at www.thedoctors.com/socialmedia.
Contributed by The Doctors Company (www.thedoctors.com).