Online rating and review sites are steadily becoming a key influencer in healthcare. Not only have patient reviews surged into the millions, but patients seeking a provider are using them to guide their decision making. Recent research from shows that 84% of patients used online reviews to evaluate physicians, and 77% of patients prioritize online reviews as the first step in searching for a new doctor.

The continued increase in the number of online patient reviews has also created an opportunity for healthcare organizations to learn from and improve the patient experience. From appointment scheduling and physician bedside manner to wait times, it is imperative that healthcare organizations manage feedback, quickly respond to concerns and use reviews to deliver a superior consumer experience.

While managing an organizations online reputation is a gradual process, there are steps providers can take now to actively engage with patients and increase patient loyalty.

  • Create a patient review response system

Patient reviews are going to happen. Plan on it. Its how you handle them that matters. Putting a system in place will help you consistently manage your online reputation and make a positive impact on your organization.

As an example, Carilion Clinic, headquartered in Virginia, has implemented a patient review response system which includes everything from who manages the feedback and how quickly responses are administered to how feedback gets implemented. Often an organizations social media guidelines or patient advocacy program can help shape this system by ensuring that the tone, context and language are consistent across all mediums.


Additionally, a written policy will help staff members consistently and appropriately address concerns from negative reviews and ensure responses are compliant with HIPAA and other healthcare industry regulations. An approval system is also recommended to ensure that each response is accurate, timely and appropriate.

Prioritize your patient response efforts

Know where to focus your online reputation management efforts. Start by setting thresholds for which reviews to respond to. Carilion uses a 3.0 threshold, but a 2.7-star review may be where a provider decides that a detailed response is appropriate.

While four-star reviews dont necessarily require a response, its recommended to help reinforce a positive experience and to help build a relationship with the patient. Patient experience platforms can help streamline the review process by identifying responses based on sentiment or flagged keywords. These keywords can highlight critical feedback and identify underlying issues that healthcare organizations can use to make operational improvements. At Carilion, department chairs and vice presidents review the feedback monthly, but their colleagues on the front lines hear of concerns immediately.


Address concerns in a timely fashion

The internet never forgets, and once an online review is posted, in most situations, it cant be taken down. Instead of being afraid or intimidated, embrace the feedback head on. Failing to respond to negative comments allows more room for frustration to build and can further hurt a healthcare organizations reputation.

The best response is quick and resolution oriented. A swift and informative response reflects positively on the organization and can change the sentiment of the review. Not only can it encourage the reviewer to continue using the healthcare organizations services, it shows that the organization is proactive and values the opinions and concerns of its patients.

Know when to make conversations private


Some patient reviews and complaintssuch as in cases where there is a high level of sensitivity with the issue or if the issue needs to be addressed with a patient advocacy groupmaybe best dealt with with a personal and private followup.

It is important to note that patients often leave reviews in hopes of being heard and want an authentic response from someone who can actually help resolve the issue. A patient experience platform can alert an organization of these more sensitive postings and enable them to promptly respond.

Though Carilions effort to address patient review started in its marketing and communications department, the organizations patient advocacy group is now heavily involved. More often than not, that relationship facilitates swift service recovery.

Take charge in asking for reviews


Another way to offset negative comments or low ratings is to proactively ask patients for reviews. Be sure you know the rules around suggestions versus solicitation. You can suggest patients to leave a review in many ways and at different points in the relationship.

For example, you can gauge the patients experience, and then ask them to share their experience online. Encouraging patients to leave reviews through channels like online patient portals and e-mail appointment reminders can drastically increase the amount of feedback an organization receives and help increase its ratings.

As patients continue to embrace their roles as consumers and seek out reviews before selecting providers, it becomes even more important for healthcare organizations to engage with patients online. Timely and authentic responses not only convey that patient experience is a top priority, they also help practices and facilities uncover opportunities for improvement and create a dialog with patients.

These best practices all contribute to the overarching strategy of keeping patients happy, which is a win-win for everyone.


Zargham Ghani is a healthcare consumer experience advisor at Binary Fountain, a developer of products and services help manage patient feedback, acquisition and loyalty and improve the patient experience.