Managing Negative Online Reviews From Patients

Risk Tips

May 13, 2021

Reading time: 3 minutes

Dentist using computer to manage online patient reviews.

The internet and social media have fundamentally changed the ways in which healthcare consumers gather and exchange information. More and more, patients are going online to research health information, find providers, and comment about their positive and negative healthcare experiences.

Consumer trends show that 90 percent of patients use online reviews to evaluate healthcare providers, 71 percent use online reviews as the first step in finding a healthcare provider, 66 percent feel that it is very important or moderately important for providers to respond to online reviews, and 80 percent trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.1

These statistics (a) underscore the significance of social media and review sites to the viability and reputation of healthcare organizations and practitioners, and (b) highlight the importance of preparing for potentially negative reviews.

Although managing unfavorable reviews can present challenges and pitfalls, various risk management strategies can help providers navigate these situations.2

  1. As part of your organization’s communication and social media policies, develop a strategy for interacting with patients online, including responding to both positive and negative online reviews. Make sure policies are compliant with HIPAA and relevant state privacy laws.
  2. Make sure all providers and staff members are educated about your organization’s social media policies and strategy, and stay up to date on guidance from professional associations about relevant legal and ethical obligations.
  3. Designate an appropriate individual to monitor the organization’s online presence, including online reviews and comments about individual providers.
  4. Explore the possibility of using online alerts and other technology solutions to monitor feedback about your organization and to assist with reputation management for the organization and its providers.
  5. Develop scripted language to respond to negative online reviews. The language should emphasize the organization’s commitment to high-quality patient care and satisfaction as well as its relevant policies and procedures. The script also should encourage individuals who have concerns to contact the office directly.
  6. Ensure that anyone responding to online patient reviews understands their obligation under HIPAA and state law to protect patient privacy and confidentiality.
  7. In each circumstance, consider the best approach for handling the online review. Options include (a) not responding, (b) responding online in a professional manner, or (c) contacting a known patient directly to address their concerns.
  8. When responding to negative reviews, avoid sounding defensive, making excuses, or criticizing the patient in any way. Under no circumstances should a provider or staff member engage in online arguments or behavior that might be considered threatening or unprofessional.
  9. Reinforce the importance of treating all patients with dignity, courtesy, and respect. Establish the expectation that all providers and staff members exhibit professionalism during both in-person and online interactions.
  10. View online reviews as a learning opportunity for both providers and staff members. Evaluate positive and negative reviews, and discuss how the organization can build on quality improvement processes.
  11. Encourage trusted, satisfied patients to post online reviews. Reviews that discuss positive experiences with the organization and its providers will help counteract negative reviews.
  12. Devise a plan for how your organization can use social media to build a positive online presence and share its mission. Doing so can help build your online reputation and offset potentially negative feedback.
  13. Consult legal counsel or consider contacting a review site’s webmaster if a patient posts information that is false or defamatory.


1Hedges, L., & Couey, C. (2020, April 3). How patients use online reviews. Software Advice. Retrieved from; Viscomi, L. (2022, March 28). Online reviews impact how patients select hospitals & doctors. Healthgrades. Retrieved from insights/blog/online-reviews-impact-how-patients-select-hospitals-doctors/

2Adler, E. L. (2016, September 21). How not to respond to bad patient reviews online. Physicians Practice. Retrieved from; Chauhan, M. K. (2016, December 18). Managing patient online reviews can make a difference. Physicians Practice. Retrieved from; Cryts, A. (2016, December 1). Docs, ignore millennials’ online reviews at your peril. FierceHealthcare. Retrieved from practices/docs-ignore-millennials-online-reviews-at-your-peril; Kropf, S. (2015, May 8). Responding to negative online patient reviews: 7 tips. Physicians Practice. Retrieved from; Segel, R. (2017, January 4). Dissed by unhappy patients? Here’s what to do. MedPage Today. Retrieved from; Weber, S. (2015, December
14). How to: Deal with negative online reviews. Physicians Practice. Retrieved from view/how-deal-negative-online-reviews; JD Supra. (2023, August 3). Tips for healthcare organizations handling negative online reviews. Retrieved from

Additional Risk Tips content

Risk Tips

Patient refusal is an aspect of dental care dentists must navigate. In this article, a patient presents to her dentist with tooth decay but refuses x-rays. Later, the patient sues the dentist for negligence.

Risk Tips

In dentistry, documentation is an essential element of practice. In this case study, the lack of detail in a dentist’s chart entry impacts the outcome of a malpractice case against her.

Risk Tips

Dentists must strictly adhere to state guidelines about records retention. In this case study, a dentist neglects to maintain records for the required duration in the state in which he is sued.

This document does not constitute legal or medical advice and should not be construed as rules or establishing a standard of care. Because the facts applicable to your situation may vary, or the laws applicable in your jurisdiction may differ, please contact your attorney or other professional advisors if you have any questions related to your legal or medical obligations or rights, state or federal laws, contract interpretation, or other legal questions.

MedPro Group is the marketing name used to refer to the insurance operations of The Medical Protective Company, Princeton Insurance Company, PLICO, Inc. and MedPro RRG Risk Retention Group. All insurance products are underwritten and administered by these and other Berkshire Hathaway affiliates, including National Fire & Marine Insurance Company. Product availability is based upon business and/or regulatory approval and/or may differ among companies.

© MedPro Group Inc. All rights reserved.