The Dos and Don'ts of Responding to Online Reviews About Your Practice

Google your name. The first results will likely be physician finder sites like, Health Grades or Vitals, or broad-based service finders like Yelp or InsiderPages. The reviews can be critical to your success as a doctor in today’s world, regardless of whether they are true or not.

Since visitors tend to focus on the bad reviews more than the good, it’s important to look at all the feedback and address it appropriately. These all play a part in your overall online reputation. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to know exactly how, or if you should respond. Make the wrong move and you risk causing more damage.

To get a handle on the dos and don’ts of managing negative reviews in the healthcare field, Software Advice contributor David Fried talked to Deborah C. Hiser, a specialist in HIPAA and Partner at law firm Brown McCarroll, and Joey McGirr, an online marketing expert with McGirr Interactive Communications.

The Absolute Can’ts

  • Never publicly discuss patient specifics. A patient can post anything they want about their visit with you, but it is a major HIPAA violation for you to say anything about them in a response.
  • Never email patients without their consent. In many states, doctors need a patient’s written consent to communicate with them electronically. Unless you’re certain you’re not in one of those states or have consent, use the telephone instead.

The Suggested Shouldn’ts

  • Don’t respond when you’re upset. We get it. You take your business personally. It is natural to want to respond on the defensive. However, McGirr suggests that you should first follow a 24-hour rule. Respond a day so the wound is less fresh.
  • Don’t get into drawn-out he-said/she-said discussions. No one wins a back and forth battle about who did what. Plus, search engines and review sites generally give more weight to newer content. This means that you draw more attention to a negative review every time you reply. Also, a response from the owner of the business validates the original comment in the eyes of the review site, making it much harder to have that review removed later.

The Cans and Shoulds