How to Respond to Negative Online Patient Reviews (Dental Law Radio, Episode 10)
You work hard in your practice to create a great patient experience, and yet you wake up one morning to find a negative online patient review. The review is unfair and may even be written by someone who is not your patient. (Yes, that happens.) How do you respond in a logical way that’s best for your practice? Host Stuart Oberman weighs in on this emotional topic. Dental Law Radio is underwritten and presented by Oberman Law Firm and produced by the North Fulton studio of Business RadioX®.
Intro: [00:00:02] Broadcasting from the Business RadioX studios in Atlanta, it’s time for Dental Law Radio. Dental Law Radio is brought to you by Oberman Law Firm, a leading dental-centric law firm serving dental clients on a local, regional and national basis. Now, here’s your host, Stuart Oberman.
Stuart Oberman: [00:00:27] Hello, everyone, and welcome. Today’s topic, the ever growing concern, how to respond to negative patient reviews online? I cannot begin to tell you how many calls we get on a daily, weekly basis, monthly basis, “How do I respond to a negative patient review?” Well, first off, you’ve got to understand what occurs. So, there are times you will get a negative review from a patient that you’ve never seen. That patient reportedly who responded and prepared this negative online review has no idea who you are, has no idea where your office is at, has no idea what state you’re in. All they know is that someone told them about you, and they had nothing else to do but write a negative online review about you.
Stuart Oberman: [00:01:26] So, what happens is when this particular frenzy starts it, it multiplies quickly. So, all of a sudden, you get this negative review from this proposed patient in Georgia, and now, you’re getting negative reviews from someone in Seattle, California, Ohio, Nebraska. And you’re thinking to yourself, “Who in the world are these people?”
Stuart Oberman: [00:01:52] So, what happens is, is that when negative reviews go up, it just builds and builds and builds. And that is when our doctors will absolutely panic. That is where they do the wrong thing of react versus respond. So, when you see that review, you’re going to think to yourself, “I don’t know who it is, but I’m going to respond quickly and, basically, tell them they’re nuts, they’re crazy, I didn’t do anything, I don’t know who you are. And if I know you, here’s a treatment that you received, and here’s why you owe me money, and here’s why to continue your dental treatment.” The next you know, patient information is disclosed, names are disclosed, neighbors are disclosed. And now, you’ve got a huge governmental compliance issue.
Stuart Oberman: [00:02:51] So, the question is, how do I react or how do I respond? Two very, very different concepts. When you react, you’re going to have a knee-jerk reaction, you’re going to send your office manager to respond, and it’s going to be posted within like 15 minutes of you reviewing that negative review. And then, what’s going to happen is, then, you’re going to call our office and say, “Hey, I got this negative review on Google or Yelp. How do I respond because I’ve already responded? Now, what do I do?” And I’m going to say the first thing you did wrong was respond instead of call us first or call whoever you need to call – your consultant, your other turn, whoever it may be.
Stuart Oberman: [00:03:36] So, what do you do? First and foremost, I urge you that when you see a negative review, your face is going to turn absolutely red, and you’re going to go nuts. Take a step back, let that sink in. Do not do one thing in the world. Yes, you’re going to want to respond. Yes, you’re going to be upset. Yup, you’re going to be really, really ticked, and you’re going to want to lash out at everyone and let that SOB online let you know and let them know what’s going on.
Stuart Oberman: [00:04:11] Here’s what you have to do in reality. First and foremost, you got to analyze every negative review. How did it occur? Was it the result of miscommunication between you and the patient? Was there a miscommunication between you, your staff and the patient? You cannot, under any, any circumstances, take this personal. This has to be a business decision. It’s like buying a house. As soon as you get personal, you lost control. Soon as you look at buying a dental practice emotionally, you lost control. You cannot take this personally. That’s why you have to take a step back.
Stuart Oberman: [00:04:59] And there are times I even recommend sleeping on it. Well, I’m not going to sleep. Well, then, you rest on it because, otherwise, you’re going to do something you really regret and you can never, ever, ever get defensive. As soon as you get defensive, you lost control. First and foremost, you will never, ever gain the upper hand on an Internet negative review battle. You’re just not going to do that.
Stuart Oberman: [00:05:29] So, what happens is, of course, you can’t ignore negative reviews. You have to take a look at what was a patient experience. Are they justified? Not justified? Never, ever, ever respond in a public forum. Never post anything online in response to this personally. If you’re going to respond, you have to respond very carefully, very tactfully, under guidance, probably with a phone call. I would be very, very careful what you put in writing, because there’s a pretty good chance what you put in writing is going straight on the Internet.
Stuart Oberman: [00:06:15] We’ve had cases where we’ve sent out letters to patients who would put negative reviews on, and they will literally post, “I got a response from Dr. John’s attorney.” What you can never, ever do also is respond with any kind of patient information, period. Never put patient information on there. Never put any PHI information because that is a clear HIPAA violation. Any response that you have, or prepared, or will be responding to, or have responded to has to be made within governmental compliance.
Stuart Oberman: [00:07:00] So, one thing I would never do, I would never, ever say I’m sorry or I apologize. Again, no excuses online. What’s the recommendation? The high road. You thinking to yourself, “The high road?” This guy just tore me up on the Internet. I got people from Topeka, Kansas, who I never even met saying what a lousy doctor I am and I treat people horrible. And you’re expecting me to sit back and do nothing.” No. What I’m asking you to do is take a step back and respond professionally, rationally and spin it. Everything’s a spin. Politics is a spin. Internet is a spin. So, you have to spin it.
Stuart Oberman: [00:07:49] What does that mean, Oberman? So, that means to prepare a very carefully drafted corporate response. Well, how do you do that? Hire counsel, be careful that you put this venture onto your consultant. We receive a lot of negative, negative advice from consultants, some we would never follow. We have some that have their own marketing people, and they have their own perception as to what occurs. But I will tell you, from a lot of trials, a lot of experience that you have to be calculated on how you respond.
Stuart Oberman: [00:08:38] So, what to do? What do you do? You put the best foot forward for your practice in a very detailed response as to how you love your patients, about the practice, how you serve the community. And there’s a, again, very calculated way that you do this, but you cannot mix that kind of response in with, “I didn’t do anything.” So, again, you have to be very careful because once it goes on the Internet, I don’t care if you delete it three minutes later, someone has got a record of that post. So, you have to be calculated.
Stuart Oberman: [00:09:21] Again, I would wait, at least, a day before you respond. Yeah, it’s going to build up a little bit, but it may die down. So, then, the question is, “Well, what do I do with the person who posted it?” One, you have to know who it is. Two, you’ve got to make sure that you didn’t do anything wrong. So, it’s easy to point to fingers that that’s a negative review, but internally, if you see that you dropped the ball, bad treatment, bad communication, and you know what, it may be justified, but they shouldn’t have done it. That’s a whole different response. That’s a whole different review. So, you’ve got to take a look at whether or not you want to send out the letter to this particular person who responded. Sometimes, it would work. Sometimes, it won’t. It just depends on the circumstances.
Stuart Oberman: [00:10:17] So, then, this leads me to to sort of a different topic is, if I refund the patient money, does it admit liability? No, it does not. You have to have a very detailed release that outlines that if a settlement is made, they will withdraw anything is posted negative online, they will not post anything online, and, essentially, they have gone silent and will go silent.
Stuart Oberman: [00:10:50] So, we had an opportunity – I personally had an opportunity to review a lease – release, if you will – last week from an insurance company that was sent to one of our doctors that it was a fill in the blank, generic, send this to the person for the refund, and everything will be fine. So, I will tell you, I would have never, in a million years, sent that release to a patient without any kind of disclosure on that, that they would have not gone to line after I refunded their money and said negative things.
Stuart Oberman: [00:11:27] So, not only does it affect what you do now and treatment wise, but there has to be some kind of language that correlates to a settlement where the patient is not going to go back online and have negative reviews. So, again, it’s a wholesale approach. It’s a very emotional approach, but has to be very calculated, and you’ve got to have a third party, if you will, oversee this because you lose the vision, you lose the process, and you have to have a calculated response again.
Stuart Oberman: [00:12:05] I know I said that before but I can’t stress that enough. Take a step back and respond to it, because once you respond in the wrong way, it never, never goes away. And somewhere, there’s a record of a negative response and a bad response. And in today’s world where Google matters, Yelp matters, it really, really matters.
Stuart Oberman: [00:12:30] So, that is a very small analysis of a very big potential problem. But again, at some point, it’s going to happen. We always say it’s not if, but it’s when a crazy patient is going to either file a board complaint or file something online. So, you got to be prepared how to respond. Although you did nothing wrong, there has to be a calculated response to that.
Stuart Oberman: [00:12:57] So, hopefully this has helped out. Hopefully, you’ll take a step back if this ever occurs, which I never hope it does, but you’ll be prepared, and you respond to it in a very calculated way, and you will put the best foot forward for your practice, because that is what you do on a daily basis, you put your best foot forward every day, and people need to know that, and there has to be a way to respond to that. So, thank you again for listening and we look forward to providing you with additional information on our podcast. Thank you. And have a fantastic day.
About Dental Law Radio
Hosted by Stuart Oberman, a nationally recognized authority in dental law, Dental Law Radio covers legal, business, and other operating issues and topics of vital concern to dentists and dental practice owners. The show is produced by the North Fulton studio of Business RadioX® and can be found on all the major podcast apps. The complete show archive is here.
Stuart Oberman, Oberman Law Firm
Stuart Oberman is the founder and President of Oberman Law Firm. Mr. Oberman graduated from Urbana University and received his law degree from John Marshall Law School. Mr. Oberman has been practicing law for over 25 years, and before going into private practice, Mr. Oberman was in-house counsel for a Fortune 500 Company. Mr. Oberman is widely regarded as the go-to attorney in the area of Dental Law, which includes DSO formation, corporate business structures, mergers and acquisitions, regulatory compliance, advertising regulations, HIPAA, Compliance, and employment law regulations that affect dental practices.
In addition, Mr. Oberman’s expertise in the health care industry includes advising clients in the complex regulatory landscape as it relates to telehealth and telemedicine, including compliance of corporate structures, third-party reimbursement, contract negotiations, technology, health care fraud and abuse law (Anti-Kickback Statute and the State Law), professional liability risk management, federal and state regulations.
As the long-term care industry evolves, Mr. Oberman has the knowledge and experience to guide clients in the long-term care sector with respect to corporate and regulatory matters, assisted living facilities, continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs). In addition, Mr. Oberman’s practice also focuses on health care facility acquisitions and other changes of ownership, as well as related licensure and Medicare/Medicaid certification matters, CCRC registrations, long-term care/skilled nursing facility management, operating agreements, assisted living licensure matters, and health care joint ventures.
In addition to his expertise in the health care industry, Mr. Oberman has a nationwide practice that focuses on all facets of contractual disputes, including corporate governance, fiduciary duty, trade secrets, unfair competition, covenants not to compete, trademark and copyright infringement, fraud, and deceptive trade practices, and other business-related matters. Mr. Oberman also represents clients throughout the United States in a wide range of practice areas, including mergers & acquisitions, partnership agreements, commercial real estate, entity formation, employment law, commercial leasing, intellectual property, and HIPAA/OSHA compliance.
Mr. Oberman is a national lecturer and has published articles in the U.S. and Canada.
Oberman Law Firm
Oberman Law Firm has a long history of civic service, noted national, regional, and local clients, and stands among the Southeast’s eminent and fast-growing full-service law firms. Oberman Law Firm’s areas of practice include Business Planning, Commercial & Technology Transactions, Corporate, Employment & Labor, Estate Planning, Health Care, Intellectual Property, Litigation, Privacy & Data Security, and Real Estate.
By meeting their client’s goals and becoming a trusted partner and advocate for our clients, their attorneys are recognized as legal go-getters who provide value-added service. Their attorneys understand that in a rapidly changing legal market, clients have new expectations, constantly evolving choices, and operate in an environment of heightened reputational and commercial risk.
Oberman Law Firm’s strength is its ability to solve complex legal problems by collaborating across borders and practice areas.
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