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Hospitals Have a Disproportionate Percentage of Negative Reviews: Find Out Why and How to Fix It

As healthcare administrators become more aware of the importance of strategic online reputation management as a means of patient acquisition, as well as branding strategies, they are becoming eager to identify ways to quickly correct negative trends affecting multi-million dollar healthcare facilities under their care.

Across the board, hospitals, even those of highly reputable names such as Cedars Sinai in Los Angeles and Presbyterian in Dallas, are lagging behind in comparison to the individual scores received by their partner physicians. Access to grants, ability to funnel public funds, and other outreach efforts to grow in size and revenue are negatively impacted by customer-generated scores featured on popular review sites such as Yelp, HealthGrades, and others.

Take a look at how the average score for top hospitals compares against top family medical practices for the top largest cities in the U.S., as compiled by Yelp:

Largest cities in the U.S.

New York:

  • Average score for top hospital: 3.5
  • Average score for top family practice: 4.5

Los Angeles

  • Average score for top hospital: 3.5
  • Average score for top family practice: 5


  • Average score for top hospital: 4
  • Average score for top family practice: 4.5


  • Average score for top hospital: 3.5
  • Average score for top family practice: 4.5


  • Average score for top hospital: 3.5
  • Average score for top family practice: 5

While this is great news for family practices, it is not so great for hospital marketers and administrators. If your hospital is facing a similar trend, where the practitioners associated with your facility consistently rate higher than your facility, there are a few changes that can be easily implemented. The great potential of correcting this trend will allow your hospital to begin securing high-scoring reviews that highlight the features, services, and personnel that make your hospital an institution focused on excellence in health care.

A Person, Not a Number

The principal reason that family doctors score better than hospitals is relational. A family practice, when handled well, is familiar with the person and not only the medical chart. This familiarity equips family practitioners and their staff to make better, more sensitive decisions and more accurate diagnostics of their patients. Relational medicine focuses on the whole person and not simply the medical issue at hand.

Hospitals, on the other hand, often handle specific medical problems that jeopardize life and limbs and require more complex and technology and science-based interventions. For the average patient, the assessment of his or her family practice doctor is easier to understand and convey than an in-depth hospital procedure.

For example, it may be difficult to make a proper assessment of a well-executed CAT scan, or a complex but risky surgical intervention where the danger of dying is high and the recovery may be painful and unpleasant. Did you know that 85 percent of medical doctors actively manage their reviews? The percentage of hospitals managing their online reputation is significantly lower.

To correct this trend, hospitals can implement processes designed to assess the whole person and understand his or her individual needs as well as the needs of the family. Details such as easy access to chaplaincy and sincere person-to-person engagement from the nursing staff and other support members can significantly improve the overall experiential perception of the patient and family members, and translate into improved online reviews.

Preventative Reputation Management

Tackle patients’ concerns before they become online reviews. This is of particular importance for long hospital stays or complex procedures. Putting processes in place to allow patients and their families to voice their concerns and assess the facility’s performance while matters can still be corrected can significantly decrease the risk of negative online reviews.

Making mid-stay surveys, suggestion and crisis hotlines, and hospital-care ombudsmen accessible to patients and their families provides a way to channel complaints in an environment of full ownership. In-house escalation empowers your facility to fix things for the patient at hand, and it prepares you for future patients that may be impacted by similar issues.

Focus on Emergency Care and ICU Processes

The bulk of complaints impacting the online reputation of hospitals are associated with the care received in their emergency facility and ICU for relatives facing complex health issues. Finding ways to optimize the quality of care in these two departments has significant potential of improving your scores on review websites.

Focus on service-level agreements and patient communication to ensure the highest levels of patient satisfaction. In the case of ICU, daily meetings with families to provide care updates and short-term prognosis tend to reduce dissatisfaction. This provides families with a sense of control over situations that may make them feel powerless.

Highlight Positive Reviews on Hospital Collateral

Including quotes or mentions of highly positive reviews, and the source, on your marketing collateral will facilitate recall and increase the likelihood of patient engagement with review websites. Patients and family members exposed to review-based collateral are more likely to take time to leave a positive review.

Maximize Opportunities with Elective Care and OB

Patients are more likely to leave a review for a hospital in association with a positive experience with elective health care or neonatal/OB care. Making sure patients and families receive high-quality, personable care in these departments can significantly improve your overall online and offline reputation, since patients are more likely to share these types of experiences over more traditional, need-based hospital care.

Focus on Providing Patient and Family-Member Comfort

Hospitals engaged in providing home-like amenities such as easy-to-access snacks for patients and family members, comfortable family-member sleeping facilities, convenient parking, and good Internet connectivity tend to score higher than facilities not dedicating time and resources to these types of features. It is a good idea for top hospitals to seek to imitate the practices of superior hotels. Hospitality is the keyword to improving your review scores.

Manage Your Online Reputation

You can only fix what you know to be a problem. Implementing a patient-focused and quality-oriented review monitoring strategy will equip your hospital to make quick procedural and administrative changes based on patient feedback. Take a whole-picture approach, and try to identify pain points and negative trends voiced via review websites. Work on tackling the issues with promptness.

In addition to knowing what is wrong and fixing it, smart hospitals take the time to respond to patient reviews. Review responses should seek to remedy the concern voiced by the patient and provide assurance to future patients reading the reviews. When answering reviews, hospital administrators need to remain aware of patients’ privacy, and draft their responses accordingly. Hospitals with properly managed online reputation generally have higher scores than those taking a more passive approach.

With diligence, a passion for superior healthcare services, and the right reputation-management tools and expertise, a hospital can quickly correct a negative review trend and increase the number of positive review acquisitions.

Kevin Kent

Kevin is the Director of Finance and Operations at ReviewTrackers. Every day he finds creative ways to solve business owners' problems and identifies key issues to help them achieve top results.