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The internet has become a primary source of new patients for the healthcare industry, making it an important component to any medical marketing strategy. According to Pew Internet Project’s January 2014 survey, 72% of patients are using the internet for health research. These internet users are also searching for healthcare providers via online review and rating sites. This can be trouble for practices with negative reviews, which all are bound to eventually receive.

What happens when frustrated patients share negative reviews online? For obvious reasons, negative reviews can adversely affect the success of the practice or provider. Some doctors, unsure of what to do when facing a negative review, do nothing. This is a recipe for trouble.  A recent survey by Digital Assent found that 72% of patients said that bad reviews prevented them from seeing a particular doctor, while 50% stated that good reviews helped them choose their provider.

How a practice or provider handles negative reviews can make a big impact on its’ bottom line. Some may recommend the “bury negative reviews with positive ones” approach. While this does help offset negative reviews, it doesn’t address the root of the problem. It is important to address any valid concerns patients have and work towards improvement. Providers can also take control of the situation by soliciting patient feedback.

Soliciting feedback helps level the playing field. Think about it, a patient with a bad experience is much more likely to share their experience because they are passionate about it. Instead of waiting for negative reviews to show up, solicit patient feedback and share the results.

Healthcare providers have been using patient surveys for years, but the results were typically used internally. More providers are moving towards sharing these surveys by publishing the reviews online. There are a variety of sites that take official patient reviews and syndicate them to numerous other sites, which helps boost the providers’ reputation.

Once providers begin soliciting feedback from patients, they will most likely see that the majority of comments are positive. In fact, an average of 90% of patient feedback is positive. By taking a proactive approach to patient reviews and ratings, the internet can be your ally instead of your enemy.