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5 positive payoffs to negative patient reviews

It might seem counterintuitive, but low-scoring patient reviews can actually be beneficial to doctor reputation management efforts.

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You carefully monitor the patient reviews written about your practice. Most people share nothing but kind words, so it can be alarming when someone publicly discloses a less-than-flattering experience in a patient review.

Understanding the importance of patient reviews, both good and bad, can help your marketing efforts. In total, 86 percent of consumers read reviews for local businesses — including nearly 40 percent for healthcare — according to a BrightLocal survey. Knowing people are reading negative feedback about your practice might send you into a panic, but there are a few benefits to negative patient reviews.

Benefits of negative patient reviews

1. Rank higher in search results

It might seem odd, but a few negative reviews can actually boost your search ranking. Search engines look for a variety of opinions to determine the legitimacy of your business. When you look at it this way, those less-than-ideal reviews are actually a good thing.

Additionally, if most reviews are positive, a few negative reviews probably won’t hurt your online reputation management efforts. The BrightLocal survey revealed consumers read an average of 10 reviews before feeling like they can trust a business, so they’ll also come across more praise than not even if they find some negative patient reviews.

Find out: Can healthcare providers sue over negative reviews?

2. Better understand your patient base

Reputation management for doctors should be a learning experience, and patient reviews are an important part of that. Negative patient reviews can help you discover what patients like and dislike about your practice, allowing you to make changes accordingly.

Negative patient reviews can also help narrow down your target patient base. If most of your unflattering reviews come from the same demographic, use this to focus your healthcare marketing efforts on those best suited for your practice.

3. Improve your relationship with dissatisfied patients

Nearly half (46 percent) of doctors believe patient reviews could have a negative impact on the physician-patient relationship, according to a 2017 study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, but that shouldn’t be the case. Instead of fearing negative reviews, consider them your chance to connect with unhappy patients.

Responding to negative patient reviews is an effective doctor reputation management strategy. In fact, 89 percent of consumers read businesses’ responses to reviews, according to the BrightLocal survey.

Most people understand that doctors are human and can sometimes make mistakes. If you’re willing to make things right, you can turn a negative review into a positive experience.

Check out: Common mistakes doctors make when requesting patient reviews

4. Boost your credibility

Receiving only glowing reviews might not help your reputation management efforts as much as you think. In fact, it can make the positive patient reviews look fake, because most businesses don’t please everyone all the time.

If you’re concerned about prospective patients reading unflattering comments about your practice, relax in knowing it’s not the deal-breaker you might think it is. Most (60 percent) people aren’t deterred by negative reviews, according to the BrightLocal survey. Plus, even after reading a positive review of a business, 19 percent of consumers still search for more reviews to validate their choice.

Learn: How to respond to negative reviews and fix your online reputation

5. Reinforce the need for healthcare reputation management

Healthcare reputation management should be an ongoing initiative, but it’s easy for your efforts to fall by the wayside. When a patient posts a negative review, it serves as a wakeup call to you and your staff.

The majority (78 percent) of physicians believe online patient reviews increase job stress,  according to the study published in the JGIM, but this isn’t the way to look at it. Instead, embrace negative comments as a way to improve your practice.

Less-than-ideal reviews might sting at first, but this is valuable feedback you and your staff can use to learn and grow. One publicly-posted negative comment can motivate you to make changes that would’ve caused you to lose several patients.

On the surface, negative patient reviews probably seem like a disaster, but most really aren’t a big deal. If you’re willing to see the positive side of unflattering feedback, you can use it to make your practice better than ever.

For more information on the topic of patient reviews, check out the blog post “Manage online reputation with a patient feedback system that works.”

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