Original Publish Date: December 4, 2018
Say that you are a healthcare provider (either a physician or facility) who recently treated a patient. By all accounts, the interaction with this patient was uneventful and routine. Later, you learn that the patient posted an online review to various platforms, expressing dissatisfaction with their interaction with you. The patient provides a detailed account from their perspective, which includes several exaggerations and maybe even some fabrications. Your recollection of the interaction is very different then what the patient described in their review. How do you handle the situation?
We live in a society where consumers are looking for ways to make their voices heard. Online reviews of healthcare providers are on the rise with the emergence of healthcare rating websites such as Healthgrades, Vitals, or RateMD’s, as well as social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and even YouTube. In 2015, a study showed that nearly one-third of patients used an online review platform to rate their provider. This number continues to grow. Patients are looking to share their healthcare experience with others, whether it is positive or negative.
People often use these sites and online reviews as a first step when seeking a provider, or to validate the choice of a physician they have selected. While the majority of patient reviews are positive, no healthcare provider is immune from online criticism. However, the nature of a provider’s response to a negative review can help mitigate any impact to the organization’s reputation. In some cases, a well-thought out response can even turn a critique into praise.
Here are some best practices you should use when responding to online criticism:
Maintaining an Online Presence
The internet is a powerful tool for all healthcare providers. More than ever, patients are using the internet as a tool to access health-related information and to research providers. They expect providers to maintain an effective online presence. Doing so doesn’t have to be a gigantic undertaking either, but an effective presence should include the following:
Managing the Risk
The necessity of using the internet and social media platforms puts healthcare providers at risk, whether from shared unprofessional content that reflects poorly upon the provider or organization, or patient privacy violations. It is important that healthcare providers have a clear internet and social media plan in place that includes the online goals, level of engagement, and necessary internal resources to execute the plan. Additionally, only specific individuals should be authorized to post content on behalf of the provider, not only proactively, but also in response to criticisms. It is also important that staff expectations are clear and policies are in place regarding patient privacy and information posted on the internet by staff. Engage an experienced insurance broker to help your organization lay out an effective plan to protect against these risks.
Torri L. Howard is a Vice President and Client Executive in the Parker, Smith & Feek Healthcare Practice Group, specializing in commercial insurance products. As a client executive, she coordinates the resources within the firm to design and implement insurance programs tailored to meet the risk management objectives of her clients. In addition, she manages all aspects of the insurance program for some of Parker, Smith & Feek's largest and most technically complex clients. She holds the Associate in Risk Management Designation (ARM). She can be reached at 425-709-3642. Visit Parker, Smith and Feek at www.psfinc.com