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Negative reviews are an unfortunate reality of life. There is no way in the world to make every customer or patient happy all the time. There is always going to be something that could have been done better or differently in a customer or patient’s life. When the negative experience makes its way to the Internet, a once private incident becomes very public.

How a business handles a negative patient review is detrimental to its’ future success, as one Florida pediatric group is learning. After receiving a negative review from a patient on a private Facebook group and having several other patients affirm the thoughts of the reviewer, the pediatric practice dropped them as patients. Could it be that the Florida practice took the time to think about the ramifications of such an action? Likely not. The practice is now in the middle of a controversy over the patient’s right to share their opinion online and their drastic response.

It is quite natural to feel hurt and frustration after receiving a negative review. Response time is an important component to any social media marketing strategy. However, it is even more important to not respond when in a negative state of mind.

So how should the practice have handled the reviewer? The best way to handle a negative review is the same for any healthcare organization and it comes down to three things: Prompt Courteous Respect.

Prompt: Respond to reviews as quickly as possible, however, it is important to think before you type, especially when responding to a negative review. Step back and try to see the situation from the patient’s perspective. How would you feel if you were in the same situation? Craft your response while keeping this perspective in mind.

Courteous: Always handle patient reviews courteously. While it may be your first response to hide, delete or ban reviewers who write negative comments, we do not advise it. It is better to show the reviewer and everyone else who has seen their review that you care about all patient opinions and value the feedback provided. When writing a response, never be defensive. Thank patients for taking the time to share their opinion and explain how you will address the situation. Offer a solution when applicable and don’t be afraid to apologize for any errors made. If the patient continues to vent their frustration, invite them to contact the office or call them directly.

Respect: Always respect a patient’s privacy when responding. Even if a patient shares specific medical information in their review, a provider should never confirm or deny its validity. Doing so risks a HIPAA violation.

If ever a review contains libelous statements, have them removed promptly as they can cause severe damage to a practice. Most review sites will take down any libelous statements, however, in some cases legal action may be necessary.

Most providers will find patients to be appreciative and understanding when responses are worded appropriately and provided promptly. Instead of taking a patients review personally, remain calm and see the review for the valuable feedback it provides. Use that feedback to make improvements and watch your practice prosper.