The rise of social media and online review sites have given patients more power than ever. These platforms give virtually anyone (patient or not) an opportunity to have their voice heard in an open forum, and in today’s day and age, reviews can make or break an aesthetic practice. If you aren’t aware of what people are saying about you online, it’s impossible to use positive feedback to your advantage and mitigate potentially damaging comments. This is why it’s so important to monitor reviews—and address them properly.

Put someone in charge

The ideal first step is designating a staff member to monitor social media comments and online reviews. In addition to the social media platforms, you actively use, be sure to search for your practice and practitioners on RealSelf, Yelp, Healthgrades, RateMDs, Vitals, RealPatientRatings, and HealthcareReviews regularly.

Tip: Set up Google Alerts for your practice and providers (including common misspellings).

Prompt patients to post positive reviews

As we all know, you can’t keep everyone happy all the time, but an abundance of positive reviews can offset the occasional negative review. To achieve this goal, let patients know that you appreciate five-star reviews and that you’ll feature them on your website and social media platforms (with their permission, of course). This is as easy as placing a small sign at check-in giving patients a card with the top rating sites as a reminder when they check out. Although it’s unethical to offer discounts or “freebies” in exchange for positive online reviews, you can reward patients who post positive reviews.

Tip: Don’t ask patients to post reviews before they leave the office. Postings that come from the same IP address as your practice are considered invalid and will not be visible to the general public.

Consider the source

As sad as it may seem, some practices resort to guerilla tactics in an effort to smear the competition. If you receive a bad review (or several bad reviews), it’s important to confirm who’s posting them. If you’re sure the review is from an actual patient, it’s best to try to resolve the problem offline—as in picking up an actual phone and trying to make it right. Ignoring negative feedback can escalate the situation for all the Internet to potentially see. If your attempts to contact the patient directly are unsuccessful, it’s best to respond online with a proactive message such as, “We pride ourselves on providing top-notch patient care and would like an opportunity to make things right.” Try to be solution-oriented and don’t ever be defensive.

Tip: To avoid violating HIPAA regulations, never share any details about a specific patient’s treatment/procedure or health history when responding to online comments or reviews.

If you are unable to verify the poster that has shared something false about your practice online is an actual patient or you’re sure you’re the victim of a blatant attack on your reputation, you can try to have a negative comment removed. However, website owners are often hesitant to do so. If the post in question refers to a service your practice does not provide or you can prove the poster is not a patient, this can help your cause. To further solidify your case, read the website’s terms of service and see if the poster has violated them.