April 9, 2024

How to Respond to Negative Patient Reviews Online

How to Respond to Negative Patient Reviews Online 

Roughly one in 10 consumers say they check Healthgrades for online reviews — and that's just one of many review sites where patients are viewing and sharing feedback. From ZocDoc and Vitals to Google and Yelp, dozens of different platforms affect your online reputation.

When you receive negative reviews on any of these platforms, it lowers your rating and reduces the likelihood that prospective patients will choose your practice. But it isn't just the reviews you receive that influence your patients — it's also the way you respond to feedback and deal with the patient's concerns.

If you're a doctor, dentist, surgeon, or any other healthcare provider, knowing how to respond to negative patient reviews is an essential customer service skill. 

By responding in a professional manner that aligns with best practices, you can show that your practice is credible, improve patient retention, convert more prospective patients, and provide better patient experiences.

This guide for clinics, hospitals, and physicians covers everything medical professionals need to know about dealing with negative online reviews. 

It includes tips for responding to negative patient feedback, examples of real review responses, modifiable review response templates, and answers to FAQs. 

How to respond to negative patient reviews (with examples)

There are two important aspects of responding to negative reviews:

  1. What to say (and avoid saying) in your responses
  2. How to generate and publish responses efficiently

We'll discuss publishing review responses later in this guide, but first, let's go over some tips and best practices for responding, including examples of effective responses from healthcare providers to patients. 

Tips for responding to negative patient reviews

Here's a quick list of the tips we'll be covering:

  1. Thank your reviewers
  2. Apologize for the negative patient experience
  3. Personalize every review response
  4. Ensure HIPAA compliance
  5. Request additional patient feedback
  6. Emphasize your commitment to quality care
  7. Respond quickly to negative feedback

We've also included screenshots of responses showing each tip in action, helping you brainstorm more ideas for how to respond to negative patient reviews. 

1. Thank reviewers for online feedback 

No one likes to receive a bad review, but it's important to thank patients even when they leave negative feedback.

Thanking people for negative online reviews shows that you have a professional attitude while getting defensive or arguing can leave the opposite impression on review readers. Even if you feel the patient is mistaken or misinformed, you should clear up the details offline in a private phone call or meeting — not in your online review response. 

how to thank the reviewer for online feedback

2. Apologize for the negative experience 

When you receive a negative review, try to see the issue from the patient's perspective and provide a brief but sincere apology.

Sometimes medical professionals avoid apologizing to reviewers due to legal concerns about fault or liability. You can avoid this issue by using phrases like:

  • "We're sorry that you were disappointed by your experience as a patient."
  • "We're deeply sorry that your visit did not meet your expectations."
  • "We're truly sorry to learn about your negative experience."

Here is a complete guide to google reviews for doctors.

As the bolded sections emphasize, these types of apologies empathize with the reviewer's feelings, without accepting or admitting fault for allegations like substandard care. 

how to apologize to the reviewer

3. Personalize all review responses  

It's essential to avoid using generic and interchangeable cookie-cutter responses. Instead, tailor each response to the negative review's contents, as in the example below. 

Providing personalized responses to negative patient reviews shows that you listen to online feedback, take the time to address your patients' concerns, and sincerely care about providing a positive experience.

 

a patient review example
how to personalize a patient review response

4. Protect patient information

As a healthcare provider, you already understand the importance of HIPAA compliance and the need to respect patient privacy, especially regarding issues like mental health or family planning.

When you respond to negative patient reviews, be sure to avoid language that could potentially violate HIPAA or breach a patient's privacy. Below are two examples showing how to reply to negative reviews without exposing a patient's information. 

patient review response example 2
how to reply to a patient review under hipaa

5. Ask reviewers to contact you directly

Negative reviews are opportunities to learn so that in the future, your practice can provide better experiences — and earn more positive reviews.

Express to reviewers that you want to learn more about their issue so your team can address it and prevent future instances. This also gives you a way to move the conversation offline and turn it from a public to a private discussion.

Be sure to provide a phone number and/or email address when directing patients to contact you.

how to ask patient reviewers to contact you directly

6. Emphasize your commitment to providing a positive experience

Even when you're responding to negative reviews, you can still incorporate positive comments about your practice into the response. This strategy enables you to promote your practice to prospective patients while simultaneously apologizing to the original reviewer.

For instance, you can state that your organization is committed to providing compassionate, outstanding, exceptional, or high-quality care; that providing a positive experience for patients is a priority for your team; or that your team continuously strives to offer patients a comfortable and luxurious experience (depending on what type of service you perform). These are just a few examples of ways to put a positive spin on a negative review.

how to epmphasize your commitment to a positive experience in a review

7. Provide timely responses to negative reviews 

Data from a 2024 Brightlocal survey shows that most people — 34% of consumers — expect businesses to respond to reviews “within two or three days.” Another 22% expect to receive a response within one week, 14% want it the next day, and 11% expect to receive it within 24 hours. 

Interestingly, these figures are slightly different for healthcare reviews: 20% of patients want a response within one week, 20% within three days, 17% “by the following day,” and 16% the same day. 

Best practice is to respond within 24 hours, especially for negative reviews that involve an active, ongoing issue. Responding within one day ensures that you satisfy the greatest number of patients possible, enabling your team to get on top of issues quickly. 

how to provide timely reponnses to negative reviews
how to respond to a negative review

Following these tips will help you create responses that sound professional and enhance your online reputation. 

8 examples of negative patient reviews and responses

In addition to the screenshots above, here are eight more examples of how to respond to negative feedback from patients.

Each example is accompanied by a customizable review response template, which your practice can use to help build its own responses.

When using templates to respond to negative reviews, remember to personalize the content and follow the other tips we covered earlier in this guide. 

Example #1 

negative patient review example 1
a response to a negative patient review example 1

Response template: "Thank you for sharing your review with our team. We're sorry to learn about your negative experience and sincerely apologize for any inconvenience during your visit. At [ Healthcare Organization Name ], we're committed to providing our patients with a comfortable environment and a positive care experience. Your feedback is important to us, as it helps us improve our level of service. We encourage you to contact us directly by calling [ phone number ] or using the contact form on our website, and a member of our team will assist you as soon as possible. Thanks once again for your feedback, and we hope to hear more from you soon."

Example #2

negative patient review example 2
a response to a negative patient review example 2

Response template: "Hello [ Patient Name ], thank you for providing us with your review. We're sorry that your experience did not meet your expectations. Patient feedback is important to us, and your comments have been escalated to our leadership team. If you need immediate assistance, please call our patient support line at [ phone number ] using ext. [ extension number ] and request to speak with our [ relevant position ]. We're proud to be recognized as [ insert awards or credentials here ], and are committed to providing our patients with an exceptional experience. We thank you again for your feedback, [ Patient Name ], and hope you'll reach out to us soon."

Example #3

negative patient review example 3
a response to a negative patient review example 3

Response template: "Hi [ Reviewer Name ], thank you for taking the time to reach out to us with your comments. We're grateful for your feedback and sincerely apologize that your visit to our facility did not meet your family's expectations. At [ Healthcare Organization Name ], our mission is to provide caring and compassionate support to our patients and their families. We hope you'll consider contacting us directly by calling our patient support line at [ phone number ], so that we can learn more about your experience and work to resolve your concerns. Thanks again for your review, and we look forward to speaking with you soon."

Example #4

negative patient review example 4
a response to a negative patient review example 4

Response template: "Hi [ Patient Name ], thank you for sharing your feedback. Our team is extremely sorry to hear about your disappointing visit. We always strive to create a caring and compassionate environment for our patients and their loved ones, and we would value the opportunity to learn more about your experience. Please contact us directly at your earliest convenience by messaging [ email address ] or calling [ phone number ]. Thank you again for your comments, and we hope to hear more from you very soon."

Example #5

negative patient review example 5
a response to a negative patient review example 5

Response template: "Hello [ Reviewer Name ], thank you for sharing your review. We appreciate you taking the time to provide us with your feedback, and are deeply sorry that your experience did not align with your family's expectations. We never want the patient experience to be a negative one, and our team is committed to providing an exceptional level of service and care. We would value the opportunity to discuss this matter with you directly, and encourage you to contact us at [ phone number or email address ] at your earliest convenience. We thank you again for your feedback, [ Reviewer Name ], and we look forward to hearing from you soon."

Example #6

negative patient review example 6
a reponse to a negative patient review example 6

Response template: "Hi [ Patient Name ], thank you for sharing your feedback with us. Due to federal HIPAA regulations, [ Practice Name ] is unable to publicly discuss specific details about patient visits online. Please be assured, however, that our team is committed to ensuring our patients receive the highest quality care. We encourage you to contact us directly by calling [ phone number ] or sending a direct message to [ email address ], so that we can work to resolve the concerns raised in your review. We look forward to hearing from you soon!"

Example #7

negative patient review example 7

Response template: "Hi [ Reviewer Name ], thanks for taking a moment to leave us a rating. Feedback from our patients is important to us, since it helps us with the continuous improvement of our services. Unfortunately, we cannot locate any records matching your name in our patient database. If you have any questions or concerns that you'd like to discuss, we encourage you to contact us directly by messaging [ email address ] or calling [ phone number ], so that we can make sure you receive prompt support from a member of our team. We look forward to providing you with the 5 star experience that [ Practice Name ] is known for!" 

Example #8

negative patient review example 8

Response template: "Hi [ Reviewer Name ], thanks for taking a moment to leave us a rating. We’re sorry to see that your experience did not fulfil your expectations, and we’d like to discuss your concerns in more detail. However, HIPAA regulations about patient privacy prevent us from addressing the specifics of your matter online. Please contact us directly by calling [ phone number ], so that we can work toward a resolution together. We look forward to hearing from you soon."

Here are a few additional tips on how to respond to a 1 star rating with no comments.

Top 16 reasons for negative patient reviews

From problems making appointments to perceived lack of follow-up care, there are numerous types of issues that can cause patients to leave negative reviews. For instance, several of the reviews featured in this guide mention rude or unfriendly service.

By knowing what common customer complaints to expect, your practice can respond to negative reviews more efficiently. For example, you can create issue-specific templates like insurance-related templates, reception-related templates, or HIPAA-related templates, enabling you to quickly create on-topic responses no matter what a review is about.

Another way to boost your efficiency is using AI, but we'll discuss that later. First, here are some common reasons for negative patient reviews:

  • Long wait times or late appointment start times
  • Unexpected bills, fees, or other charges
  • Failure to respond to patient requests
  • Failure to answer or return patient calls and messages
  • Dissatisfaction with the quality of medical care provided
  • Inadequate follow-up with patients
  • Breaches of patient privacy or HIPAA compliance
  • Issues processing payments or canceling transactions
  • Problems processing insurance claims
  • Confusion and misunderstandings around insurance coverage
  • Unclean or unsanitary rooms, tools, or equipment
  • Poor attitude or bedside manner from doctors, nurses, or other staff members
  • Slow or poor service from the reception desk or other staff members
  • Technical issues with the practice's app or website
  • Discriminatory treatment against patients or employees/staff members, such as racial, religious, or gender discrimination
  • Allegations of malpractice or fraud 

How to easily manage all your patient reviews

With so much demand on the healthcare system, clinics and hospitals are under intense pressure. For many healthcare providers, it's increasingly difficult to find the time or bandwidth to dedicate to a personalized review response strategy.

That's where ResponseScribe can help solve your pain points. ResponseScribe is a done-for-you review response service that provides on-brand, custom-built responses to positive, mixed, and negative reviews on over 50 platforms.

We provide the option to use human-written or AI-generated review responses, with the ability to switch, cancel, or upgrade your plan at any time. We also provide the option to view responses before they're published, ensuring that content aligns with your brand messaging, complies with HIPAA, and meets your quality standards.

You'll also receive business insight reports, like customer sentiment analysis, that lets you spot trends and identify areas for improvement.

In addition to ResponseScribe, we also offer review generation and review removal services through our review management platform, Shout About Us

We respond to patient reviews for hospitals, clinics, and healthcare providers 

Improve patient retention, boost your practice's reputation, minimize damage from negative reviews, and earn more good reviews in the future — all while increasing the speed and cost-efficiency of your review management strategy.

It's free to try ResponseScribe and see if it's a good fit for your practice. Get started with a free trial for your organization today.

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