Ignoring the importance of online reviews is no longer an option for providers. Managing your reputation online does more than generate new business; it directly improves patient retention. Patients today are taking full advantage of websites like Healthgrades, RateMDs, and even Yelp to select and review physicians. According to a survey conducted by EHR comparison site, Software Advice, 61% of patients report consulting online reviews prior to selecting a doctor, and a 20% use them to help evaluate a current doctor.

When evaluating physician reviews, patients ranked the following information as the most valuable: quality of care, ratings, patient experience, demographics, and photos of physician and/or practice. Why does this matter? The implications of online reviews run deep. A Harvard Business School study indicates that as much as a one-star drop in rating can reduce a company’s revenue by about 10%.

Online reviews leave physicians with plenty of feedback – both positive and negative. And while other businesses can respond to these reviews in detail, health care providers are constrained by HIPAA, and must carefully craft their responses to avoid a violation.


Keep tabs on your online presence. Choosing to ignore a review doesn’t reflect well on your image, especially since it only takes a few seconds to respond. Put yourself and your practice in a positive light with courteous replies to questions or negative online reviews.

When possible, claim your online listings. On most review-based sites, you can click a “claim this business” button and fill out your contact info. Once verified as the owner (typically through a verification call or email), you’ll have more control over the page. This allows you to respond to reviews and, in some cases, contact reviewers. It also permits you to update information such as your bio, company information, credentials, or photos.

Respond promptly, politely, and positively. Avoid inappropriate or defensive comments, as engaging in an argument can only escalate matters. Expressing compassion, and a willingness to work with the reviewer can sometimes negate, or disprove the original review.

Don’t mention specific details about a patient or procedure. It’s tempting to want to explain an outcome or defend yourself. However, doing so can violate HIPAA. Even seemingly harmless details should be avoided, such as the date or time of a surgery. Instead, it’s best to empathize with a patient and encourage them to reach out to you personally. Taking the conversation offline reduces the risk of a costly HIPAA violation. Here’s an example of an HIPAA-compliant response:

I’m very sorry to hear about your experience. We always strive to provide our patients with the very best care, and I would welcome the opportunity to listen to your concerns and try and make things right. Please feel free to reach out to me to discuss the situation, or come in for a complimentary follow-up visit.

Invite satisfied patients to leave reviews. The best way to minimize the effect of negative reviews is to invite satisfied patients to share their experiences. In fact, the majority of physician reviews are overwhelmingly positive. Take, for example, the study published in The Journal of Urology, which surveyed 500 urologists. It found that over ten physician-ranking sites, the number of reviews per physician ranged from 0 to 64, with an average of 2.4 reviews per urologist. Of these reviews, 86% were positive. It’s perfectly normal for a Yelp page to contain at least one or two negative reviews. If the reviews were all perfect, it would probably look suspicious.

Never attempt to restrict a patient’s right to write a review. Companies have attempted this, and many have failed. Refrain from asking patients to sign a waiver or policy that prevents them from exercising their First Amendment rights. Doing so can appear suspicious.

Request feedback from patients on a consistent basis. Proactively asking patients for feedback makes them feel valued and respected. It demonstrates you are actively trying to meet your patients’ needs, and it’s an excellent means to obtain suggestions for improving your practice. Often, it allows physicians to resolve the issue before the patient turns to Yelp or Healthgrades in frustration. Patient surveys have been proven to reduce the risk of claims, and ultimately, lawsuits.

Pay special attention to bedside manner. By analyzing over 3,500 reviews of 300 physicians, researchers from Vanguard Communications sought to determine the top reasons for complaints on physician review sites. A massive 43.1 percent of the negative reviews cited poor bedside manner and indifference as their major grievance. Taking extra care to improve your bedside manner can reduce negative reviews considerably.


Learn how to manage your online presence by signing up for our free webinar, How to Take Control of Your Online Reputation and Minimize Negative Reviews, Thursday, July 30th from 12-1pm EST, hosted by Capson Physicians Insurance Company.

In addition, webinar participants are eligible to receive a free Reputation Assessment (powered by eMerit) from Capson. These assessments help physicians evaluate their current online reputation, determine any associated risks, and provide a map for improvement.

Sign up now to reserve your spot and receive your complimentary assessment.