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In the past, the reputation of a hospital was tied to two main factors: word of mouth, and awards or certifications granted by agencies that specialized in evaluating medical venues.

But as a result of rapidly evolving technologies, interactive online engagement is quickly replacing certifications and word of mouth, and shifting to a model that depends mainly on crowd-sourcing and voluntary disclosure through online reviews by patients.

patient satisfaction

Provide Your Patient with Early Engagement Opportunities for Feedback

The vast majority of complaints conveyed through third-party review sites are rooted in customer service or patient satisfaction issues that were escalated on location or shortly thereafter, and resulted in a dissatisfactory engagement with brand representatives.

Before your patients head to review sites to voice their frustration, consider incorporating an early survey to identify and isolate customer service concerns. The simpler the survey, the more likely past patients and their families will respond.

At ReviewTrackers, we have found that one of the most reliable means to capture customer concerns is through the use of tools that engage past customers with a Net Promoter Score survey.

Through the survey, you will be able to isolate areas of concern and allow customers who are less than satisfied to convey the nature of their problem in tandem with their score-based perception of their experience.

Once you have documented the nature of their problem or concern, you should be able to provide a prompt response or escalation along with a reasonable resolution, to avoid the possibility of the issue going viral through online channels, such as Yelp. 

Know the Laws Related to Patient Privacy

Contrary to other industries, hospital or healthcare reputation management is not intuitive in nature, nor is it possible to task those in charge of operational matters with the day-to-day chore of responding to reviews and addressing customer concerns.

All of the good stuff you can do with a hotel or a restaurant is not necessarily applicable to a hospital or hospital chain. The person tasked with responding to reviews and managing patient satisfaction needs to be aware of the laws concerning patient privacy, and should seek to use responses that meet or exceed the standards set forth by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

(Check out: “Doctors, Hospitals, and Healthcare Marketers and Organizations: A List of Online Review Sites You Track and Manage”)

Utmost care must be taken when it comes to protecting every single detail of a patient’s privacy, even if it means remaining silent when your hospital is actually in the right on issues voiced via third-party review sites. 

Have Ombudsman Opportunities

Avoid getting cornered into providing responses by giving reviewers the opportunity to take their concerns before a corporate ombudsman. This alternative avenue empowers reputation managers with an avenue that does not jeopardize patients’ privacy, and ensures concerns are dealt with in a patient-friendly manner that takes into account the legal details that matter the most.

A response to a negative review can be as simple as telling the reviewer to kindly escalate the issue via phone by contacting the ombudsman to discuss it. The hospital’s ombudsman should always conduct due diligence by understanding the facts, not only as provided by the reviewer but also as disclosed in the patient’s medical file.

The ombudsman should always be under the auspice of the hospital’s legal department and must truly know his or her stuff when it comes to providing resolution and protecting the hospital from potential liability. 

Respond by Providing Examples

Should your hospital decide to respond to a negative review, it is possible to do it without compromising the patient’s privacy. How? By resorting to general statements that cite standard operational procedures and provide examples of other similar instances to the patient’s narrative. It’s not always recommended to use real cases to defend or illustrate the issue when crafting a review response.

Create Standard Operational Procedures with In-House Counsel

Laws related to patient privacy and the repercussions of violating said laws can be quite complex. Your reputation manager or managers need to work hand in hand with the hospital’s in-house counsel to design a quick-reference operational manual that will ensure the responses provided are within the allowances of the law.

Contextualize Your Responses by Framing Them with Compassion

Even the most positive hospital stay is likely to have negative nuances due to the core nature of the industry. Nobody heads to the hospital to have fun.

When responding to a negative review, make sure you contextualize your response, and take into account the level of stress suffered by the reviewer, whether they were the patient, the parent, or the caregiver. Acknowledge their feedback, and be radically compassionate. Oftentimes, an ounce of compassion will be worth several pounds of explanation or resolution.

Be Sympathetic

For most industries dealing with online reputation and the direct management of the customer experience through review responses, the gold standard is remedy and resolution. It’s not always the case in healthcare.

Providing remedy, apologies, or direct resolution to a patient complaint can be the root of a great conundrum and open the doors to a malpractice lawsuit. Be kind, personable, caring, and sympathetic, but do not take your response in any direction that might jeopardize the hospital from a legal standpoint.

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.


  1. Fields of Clover

    Yes this could be a particular concern given the increased litigation over HIPA laws. Healthcare is also an industry that relies more and more heavily on online reviews. It’s a tough spot to be in.

  2. sasha_482

    This is just wrong. If your hospital got a bad review that is because it failed to provide quality. That can’t be erased by a positive reply. If they fail they can’t just come up with an excuse. Peoples future and lives are in their hand, so there is no room for errors. And if something bad happen they should not be allowed to even comment on that. This is just wrong.

    • Richard Pascal

      Keep in mind that sometimes people leave negative reviews when they are unsatisfied with some irrelevant things, such as color of the room, the food, etc. A hospital is a place for healing, not a hotel.

  3. Samantha

    I think this is so important. You need to fully understand the laws when it comes to managing your online presence. People want to know that their healthcare provider is providing the best possible care in a friendly, clean, safe and confidential environment. This is why it is important to respond delicately to reviews.