5 Ways to Help Doctors Overcome Negative Reviews

Digital Marketing
  • 5-star reviews are, of course, very pleasant to receive from your patients. However, in any business, especially health-related, you can't expect to please every single patient to a full 5-star feedback.
  • This means that, unfortunately, you will have to face negative reviews in your practice at some point. They aren't earth-shattering. They simply need to be addressed correctly.
  • In order to know how to deal with them wisely, read more to see our top 5 tips to help doctors better cope with any unwanted review.

tips to overcome negative reviews

It’s impossible to expect a 5-star review from every patient and point-of-care. The most streamlined and tech-savvy medical clinic will still run late. A doctor with the most attentive skills, judgement, and empathy will still encounter a medical error, adverse reaction, or complication.

If you’re questioning whether reviews even matter for doctors, then stop. Review sites drive local search engines, influence over 90% of online customers and are increasingly used by patients to air their views. So, what can be done about an inaccurate or negative review?

Be Alert, Not Alarmed

The online world runs on a 24/7 clock and responding promptly has several benefits: it prevents an unnecessary escalation and reduces how many potential customers will read the review. The best way to monitor reviews is to set up a Google Alert. You should create an email alert for mentions of your name, practice name, and common variations, like name shortenings. You can filter by country and keyword depending on how common your name is. This will cover all open access web domains and most social media platforms.

Ask for Fake or Malicious Reviews to be Removed

Unfortunately, many review sites enable anonymous postings that do not require validation of the doctor-patient relationship and this presents unique challenges. In general, if you believe that a review is false or malicious, then the first step is to contact the hosting administrator to remove it. Call if there is a phone number and follow-up with an email summary for a permanent record.

Some administrators can be slow or even reject your request for removing a review on the basis that consumers are free to express their opinions. If this is the case, you can follow-up by messaging the reviewer privately to remove the post. Alternatively, you may consider a public message. If you choose to do this, then you should only comment on the review’s inaccuracy and direct further concerns offline to your practice (with email or office phone number). Don’t engage unnecessarily in the public domain, as you risk encouraging further damaging comments.

If you firmly believe the reviewer is not a patient of yours, for example, their online details do not match any of your records, then you are entitled to state as much:

‘According to our records, this reviewer is not (and has not previously been) a patient of Dr…’

If the actions of the site administrators or reviewers are not acceptable to you, you can obtain advice from your MDO about possible defamation proceedings. Legal proceedings are technical, universally costly, and should be reserved as a last resort.

Consider Responding to Legitimate Concerns

You may choose to ignore a review on a rambling blog that is low down on a google search. But be mindful of any mentions on platforms that you have little or no presence on (e.g. Youtube or Instagram) as they’ll be higher up on a search.

If a review is posted that you feel has legitimate concerns, then you should strongly consider taking action. This includes negative reviews posted by genuine customers on popular sites or by high-profile customers (e.g. with many followers/friends). The benefits of an interaction are that the patient receives acknowledgement, an explanation or an apology that may deter them from further criticising you, and may ultimately increase their likelihood of retracting the review. Ideally, you should communicate privately, although this may not be feasible on a blog, Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter page. In these instances, you should always direct the conversation offline.

Before engaging with any disgruntled patient, speak to your staff to get the full story. Be polite and professional in your response. Don’t respond when angry and have someone else read your reply to monitor its tone.

how to manage negative reviews

People will review anything, including Oakland County Jail.


Prevent Online Reviews from Tarnishing Your Reputation

Like complaints made in person, negative reviews do not necessarily result in a loss of income. Creating your own positive web content will push down negative reviews on search engines. You can harness your site structure or content, build links and define meta-descriptions to achieve this. If you still fail to position your content as the top ranking, then you should create a paid Google Ad (with keywords relevant to your practice) that places your ad above all other search results.

Often patients will go online to post negative reviews simply because it’s an easy way to contact you. You should always have clickable email and phone number links on your webpage to facilitate direct contact and to reduce public postings. Accepting comments on your webpage will also enable patients to contact you on a platform that you can easily curate and remove, if necessary. You may also want to provide links on your webpage to your more favourable review sites and your social media accounts.

The Product Market Fit

Online reviews can be also used constructively to change your practice or workflow. Bear in mind, many ‘doctor reviews’ are actually critical of wait times, office organisation, or the courtesy of administrative staff. But if you find you have persistent negative reviews, you may need to consider your ‘Product Market Fit.’ For example, are your services adequately addressing your patients’ holistic needs? Do the people that give you poor reviews have a similar characteristic or disease? If you find they do, then you may choose to screen for these types of patients and refer them to an appropriate colleague. Importantly, reviews are just one of the many ways to gain online credibility and you should try to have a multifaceted presence.

Negative reviews can be a crushing blow to your self-esteem but they do not have to impact your income if you follow these steps to anticipate and manage them appropriately. Negative reviews may provide an opportunity to improve your practice or re-examine your product market fit.

Jonathon Lo

Founder at HealtheBit

Dr Jonathon Lo is a medical doctor and final year PhD candidate of Basic Science with the University of Melbourne. Currently accepted in to the Bluechilli.com Accelerator program for a medical startup. HealthXL advisor. Co-founder of CoRefer, GoDrve (Anthill 100).

Comments (2)
Lisa Ormenyessy

Lisa Ormenyessy, Business Coach and Marketing Specialist at

Jonathon, this is a tricky area to navigate for medical professionals as they are not permitted to show and garnish testimonials from their clients/patients and yet they have to deal with them independently reviewing them on other sites. I would be interested to know how you navigate the 'testimonial' situation to your advantage. Thanks.

Mary Grace Macatangay

Mary Grace Macatangay, Influencer Relationship Manager at SavvySME

Awesome tips..Thanks Jonny! Looking forward to your next articles.