Dangers Outweigh Benefits of Facebook Reviews for Healthcare Clinics

Dangers Outweigh Benefits of Facebook Reviews for Healthcare Clinics

When I meet with a medical clinic to discuss social media marketing inevitably they’ll ask about turning off reviews on Facebook or the dangers of negative comments. Every doctor or nurse practitioner has heard a horror story about a medical clinic closing due to the drama brought on by one negative online review. Fear of managing negative reviews can freeze clinic managers in their tracks.

Our agency began managing social media accounts in 2008 just months after business pages launched. In the last twelve years, we’ve managed our share of negative, spammy, and fraudulent reviews. None of them shut down any of our business. 

Could a bombardment of negative reviews cause a business to lose so many customers they eventually have to close? Yes. We have witnessed local businesses whose poor customer relations spilled onto their social media pages and eventually caused the shuttering of their business. But being shut down over unwarranted negative reviews isn’t what should really scare medical clinics about Facebook or other social media reviews.

Protection of Your Staff and Reputation

It’s one thing when a patient complains about their long wait time or high fees for services, it’s another when they call out specific employees by name. One reason many healthcare facilities choose to disable social media reviews is to protect their staff. Cyber-bullying isn’t limited to teens on Instagram. It’s a weapon patients may use to attack your staff on your own pages. 

Reputation management is part of an overall social media strategy. In addition to protecting your employees, disabling Facebook recommendations puts you back in charge of your social media reputation. Businesses can request a review of recommendations they believe to be fraudulent, abusive or spammy. We’ve had luck having these types of reviews removed by Facebook, but the process takes time. In the meantime, customers are reading those recommendations.

Reviews Outside Social Media

All that said, negative reviews are no reason to avoid social media altogether. Your patients are reviewing your medical practice and posting about their experience online whether you’re there to hear it or not. Other review sites such as Yelp, Better Business Bureau, and Google offer open platforms for reviews. These sites are set up for the express purpose of allowing consumers to rate and review businesses.

Use these sites for managing your reviews. Claim your listing. Create a policy for responding to all reviews, not just the negative ones. You can respond in a way that doesn’t violate HIPPA. Possible responses include: “Thank you for your comments! We love serving our community.” or “We’re sorry you had a bad experience. Would you contact [person’s name] at [phone number] so we can learn more?”

No matter the platform, best practices involve taking all negative review conversations offline as quickly as possible.

Negative Comments Are the Exception

Even if you disable reviews or recommendations on your Facebook page, patients can leave negative comments on your posts. For locally-owned clinics, we’ve found these negative comments to be the exception, not the rule. 

Over the years, we had one comment about excessive fees on a dental clinic’s page. The person who posted was not a patient, did not live in the state, and had no record of any estimates for services. We deleted the comment. The few negative reviews we’ve dealt with all fell in this same category. 

Negative comments may be hidden or deleted and (if the comments are abusive) the user can be banned. You or your Facebook page administrator can take these actions without waiting on Facebook to manually review a flagged recommendation.

Be Proactive

I’m a huge proponent for transparency. For the most part, Facebook recommendations allow that in spades. If there’s a problem with your clinic, you want to know and you want to fix it. Instead of waiting for your patients to post a review online, be proactive. Send out an email or snail mail survey to ask patients about their visit. Do your own follow up to ensure any problems are resolved before they become comment-worthy.

If you’re concerned about managing your online reputation, give us a call. We’d love to talk discuss what your patients find about your online and how you can control the conversation.  

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