How to Address Negative Patient Reviews to Improve Service Recovery

POSTED ON: Sep 11, 2020

How to Address Negative Patient Reviews to Improve Service Recovery Ajay Prasad

How to Address Negative Patient Reviews to Improve Service Recovery

The idea of intercepting negative patient reviews has a positive intention of identifying and understanding patient issues as soon as they occur, and act immediately on fixing them – with a motive to regain the trust of dissatisfied patients (who wrote those negative reviews), and recover them as a patient. Negative patient reviews are bound to happen.

Potentially, even a few negative reviews can be damaging for your reputation, if they are not handled carefully. More than that, a negative review also means a dissatisfied patient who needs to be taken care of.

By listening to your unhappy patients' concerns and solving their issues, you don't just save another negative review from getting posted online, but also regain the trust of your dissatisfied patients and turn them into your most loyal promoters.

Generally, this whole process is carried out under a defined patient service recovery program in any healthcare practice.

The Concept of Patient Service Recovery

According to Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), service recovery is the process used to "recover" dissatisfied or lost patients by identifying and fixing the problem or making amends for the ‘failure’ in customer or clinical service.

In simple terms, it's about listening to your patient's problems, understanding their issue, fixing it, regaining the lost trust, and finally turning your unhappy patient into a loyal promoter.

Patient service recovery starts with having a complaint management system that allows patients to register their complaints. Receiving a complaint is the most traditional way of knowing about the unhappiness of your patients. Keep in mind that the chances of success are higher in service recovery when it is done immediately after the patient has expressed distrust or unhappiness.

That's exactly why healthcare providers are increasingly using review monitoring tools to improve their patient recovery rate. These are not actually separate systems, but a part of the online reputation management process, which helps by:

  • Facilitating patients to write reviews just after their visit
  • Prompting practice managers to reach out when the patient has rated poorly
  • Letting you connect with the unhappy patients even before they leave the office

This kind of proactive approach towards patient recovery helps in solving the patients' issues as immediately as they occur.

How Review Monitoring Tools Work (Are They HIPAA Compliant?)

Review monitoring tools are a great way for providers to identify and analyze negative reviews.

The process for how this tool helps a provider intercept a negative review is simple.

1. You send a review submission link to your patients (through either a text message or through email, or both) just after their visit.

2. Your patient writes about his/her experience and also rates your quality of service.

3. If the submitted review turns out to be negative, your practice manager will immediately get notified about it.

4. Your practice manager will understand the issue by reading the submitted review, and take the required action for complaint redressal (if needed, your practice manager will involve you in this). The complaint redressal process should go as follows:

  • Contact the patient and show your acknowledgement of the mentioned issue; a sincere apology will work fine here
  • Ask them about what happened, and listen to them carefully; don't forget to empathize with their cause
  • Fix the problem quickly and fairly; if your patient wants to directly talk to you, take your time to listen to them

This is in compliance with the process as laid down by the AHRQ (See the screenshot below): Source: AHRQ

Steps 1, 2, and 3 talk more about the immediate strategies related to complaint redressal, while steps 4, 5, and 6 are more about the strategies related to using a database of reviews to track and improve the performance of your practice or hospital and its staff, and about how to eliminate the causes of lower patient satisfaction. [Online reputation management tools help in this too]

5. As your unhappy patients' issues will be resolved, the tool will again prompt them to leave a review (most likely, they'll submit a positive review this time which they can directly post on the review website they choose) Here's how RepuGen (a HIPAA compliant online reputation management software) intercepts negative patient reviews, and lets you conduct service recovery for improved patient retention:

While using these tools, the only thing that you'll need to take care of is to keep the patient identity or patient health information publicly undisclosed, and you'll never have to face any compliance issues from HIPAA.

The Worst Offense That Upsets Patients

3 out of every 4 cases of negative reviews of doctors and clinics are about wait times, grumpy receptionists, parking, etc. Only 25% of the cases are from providers' side, such as bedside manners, proper communication about medicines and treatment, etc.

However, that doesn't mean service recovery is the sole responsibility of your front-line staff. “Your front-line staff, to whom patients usually address those complaints, do not necessarily have the skills or resources to fix ’system issues‘ that are often the source of the problem,” says Dr. Wendy Leebov, a national expert on service recovery in healthcare.

According to Dr. Leebov, managers and the executive leaders have responsibility for redesigning dysfunctional work processes and systems, or reassigning staff if needed.


Intercepting negative review is just the start of the service recovery process. After having identified your unhappy patients and having understood their cause of concern, the next step is to get your team together in solving that issue and recovering the unhappy patient. After all, a strong base of loyal patients is all that your healthcare practice requires for long-lasting success.

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