At the RBMA Building Better Marketing Programs conference in Long Beach last month, I hosted a presentation on implementing social media programs into a practice’s marketing plan.  In years past, health care professionals were apprehensive to fully embrace social media as a means for reaching patients.  Alas, this year I saw a shift in acceptance.  The one thing practice managers and marketing representatives were concerned with though?

Negative patient feedback.


How do you deal with a negative comment about your service? Do you delete it? Do you respond? What about those patients who post crazy thoughts or even outright lies about your practice?

As with face-to-face interactions, there are no specific protocols for handling each scenario with review sites and social media.  It can be intimidating to handle patient feedback online because it isn’t how people are accustomed to dealing with patients. The key to handling negative patient feedback on social media is understanding the kinds of complaints and how to manage them.


A great article from Health Care Communication News sums it up perfectly. (Read the full article here: 4 types of negative feedback on your hospital’s social media channels)


Standard Problem: A patient or referring physician posts their issues with your practice online. It could be small or large, based on personal preference or a perceived issue.

Good thing: It can point out some real issues your practice needs to address.

Solution: A personal or public response, which one depends on how large the issue has become. Make sure you’re taking action though and not ignoring the complaint.

Example Response: “Thank you very much for letting us know, we truly care about our patients’ feedback. Here’s why we do things this way...”


Constructive criticism: This is a great complaint to receive because it gives you the opportunity to improve.  Someone could say something like, “I wish I could have saved time by filling out forms online.”

Good thing: Those who provide constructive criticism are usually loyal to your practice.

Solution: Construct a formal response, thanking them for their constructive feedback. If you can find a way to implement their request, be sure to let them know you’re going to try.

Example Response: “Thanks so much Ms. Patient for your response, you made a really good point. We’ll certainly talk to our website guy and ask them to add the forms online. Hope this helps next time!”


Warranted attack:  Someone at the practice did something to upset someone and now they are displeased.

Good thing: You have the opportunity to fix the situation, because they opened lines of communication.

Solution: This can be hard to handle and even more challenging to hear. You should respond quickly and be positive but proactive.  Thank them for the feedback and let them know that you are certainly going to take steps to fix the problem.

Example Response: “We are so sorry that you had such a bad experience here but we understand where you are coming from with this. We’d love to talk more and figure out a way to ensure that this doesn’t happen again.”


Wildcat: Here’s that crazy patient we were talking about before. Sometimes people just want to complain. Basically, the commenter has no legitimate reason to complain or be upset.

Good thing: Most people will recognize that this is an off-the-wall complaint.

Solution: Don’t let yourself get baited into an argument. Simply ignore the comment and remove it from your page.

Example Response: Delete J


So don’t be worried about how to respond, you’ll learn as you go. Just look at it as learning how to communicate with new people. Whether they are online or in person, people are all the same. They just want to be heard.

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