Removing & Deleting Bad Patient Reviews
The first thing to do if your medical or dental practice or clinic receives a negative review is to take a deep breath and don’t panic; negative reviews are inevitable, no matter how well-run your office is and no matter how hard you try to satisfy your patients.
Ask a Patient to Remove a Review
If you sense that you’ve been able to change a patient’s outlook — by either remedying their complaint, persuading them to see their own error or by simply calming them down and changing their mind, you might feel it’s appropriate to ask them to revise or remove their negative review.
This should be handled very delicately, for several reasons. First, it may be quite painstaking and time-consuming for them to go back and edit their review if you ask for a revision; not everyone is savvy enough to navigate this process. At a minimum, if you’re going to ask someone to do this, you should have extremely clear, step-by-step instructions for them on how to do so written out beforehand.
Offering some kind of incentive (a gift item, a service discount or a gift certificate, for instance) could also help, but try not to make it a quid-pro-quo (a straight exchange) arrangement, as this could potentially be illegal, or at least lie within a gray area ethically.
Also be aware that it may go against the policies of some websites (xxx is a prime example) to specifically ask a patient to revise or remove a review. Be sure to check the guidelines of any sites where you want to do this. There may be a way to encourage a patient to do this without asking them point-blank.
By explaining (quite honestly, in most cases) that negative reviews hurt your practice, if you’ve taken steps to remedy the situation and/or made them feel better, the patient may see editing or removing their review as a natural step to take.
Having Reviews Deleted by Websites
While very few websites will delete a bad review if they’re simply asked, there are a number of reasons that would be considered valid justifications for doing so.
For instance, if a reviewer goes beyond criticism and insults or attacks a practice or clinic — particularly if they use foul or obscene language — this can be a valid reason to remove a review.
Did the reviewer make any errors in their review? Was something they said inaccurate or impossible? Pointing this out — with proof or documentation to back it up — may also be enough to get the review deleted.
Check If a Bad Review Violates a Website’s Terms
Many websites have rules or guidelines — particularly around language — for reviews, and it’s extremely easy to point out violations of these.
Dealing With Fake Reviews
Another valid reason for deleting negative reviews is if they’re fake.
Unfortunately, we live in an age where competing businesses can either write and post negative reviews themselves or pay individuals or third-party firms to do so. This is sadly a more frequent occurrence than many people realize, but fake reviews are immediate cause for removal because they technically violate laws regarding defamation and libel (see “Taking Legal Action” below). A company that knowingly continues to host reviews that are fake is creating a legal liability for itself. Merely pointing out that a review is fake may be enough to get it removed, but before you make such an accusation, be sure you’re correct in your assessment. False accusations of a fake review can produce a “boy who cried wolf” effect and reduce your credibility in future interactions.
Fake reviews can often be spotted and confirmed upon closer examination.
Here are a list of questions to ask when trying to determine if a review is fake:
- Are there details of the review that are impossible or don’t sound correct?
- If you have the reviewer’s name or identity, do a search for their other reviews. Are there any? Do they all follow a pattern (for instance, are they all negative, or are they all for similar treatments or services)?
- If you have a reviewer’s email, what happens if you do a Google search on it? Does anything come up besides reviews?
- Does the reviewer’s email address sound like a real and valid email? For instance, is it something like email@example.com, or is it firstname.lastname@example.org?
- If your practice or clinic has received numerous negative reviews, look at the time and date they were posted — were they all left on the same day or around the same time?
The “wrong” answers to the above questions can all be clues that reviews are fake.
If you have suspicions that reviews are fake, but no proof, it may be worth writing to the website the reviews are hosted on and relating your suspicions. The website may be willing to do further research (without necessarily telling you what they find out) to see if these suspicions are correct. If you do find fake reviews, it may be worth investigating further to see who’s behind them to determine if they’re just random or if they’re part of an organized or funded effort, in which case, you might consider legal action (see below).
“Burying” Bad Reviews: Time, Money, & Buying Reviews
Occasionally, it may be impossible to adequately respond to a review, offer a remedy, have the review deleted or have the person who left the review edit or delete it.
In these cases, the next-best solution may be to “bury” the negative review with a mountain of positive reviews. Note that we don’t advise you to purchase fake positive reviews or pay people to write them, but if the negative review was due to poor service (or even bad luck) and you improve over time, it’s inevitable that you will end up receiving positive reviews that will vastly outnumber the negative ones.
For example, if your practice has 10 pages of reviews, but the bad ones are all on the 10th and final page, the chances that people are going to click all the way through to eventually see the bad reviews will be low. In this way, the date of a review can often be just as important as its star-score; as the saying goes, “time heals all wounds.”
Also bear in mind that most people don’t make a judgment from a single negative review; it usually takes a number of them to change a person’s impression of a practice.
Taking Legal Action Against Bad Reviews
If all of the above steps don’t resolve an issue, and the case is especially damaging or egregious (for example, if it’s causing measurable economic damage to your practice), it may be worthwhile to consult with an attorney to see if there are legal remedies available to you.
Defamation and libel are criminal actions that carry real penalties, but they’re only valid if the claims made in a review are demonstrably false and/or injurious. Prosecuting and proving defamation or libel is extremely time-consuming and expensive, and may result in much attendant negative publicity that could prove more damaging than the original issue.
If you choose to take a legal route, be sure to take a screenshot of the relevant review, so it can be used even if the review is changed or deleted later.
Working with an attorney where appropriate, get in contact with the platform the review is hosted on, and make your argument, emphasising the legal aspects of the case. Many platforms are not eager to engage with medical practices or clinics legally and may decide it’s not worth it to continue hosting the offending review. In some cases, a simple letter from an attorney can push a website or platform to remove a review.
As a last resort, you could try to have an attorney write to and/or talk with the reviewer, but be aware this is especially risky and increases the chance of a negative outcome (such as further bad publicity and additional bad reviews). Unlike large websites, individual reviewers may not possess great financial resources that could be at risk from the outcome of a legal case, and as such, they may feel much freer to engage in frivolous or petty actions.
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