How to Respond to Negative and Positive Patient Reviews (With Examples)

More consumers are reading online reviews than ever before.

And dentists are no exception. 98% of people at least ‘occasionally’ read online reviews for local businesses, and 84% of people say reviews play an important part in their decisions about healthcare.1 While star ratings and the content of reviews  certainly impact consumer decision, 89% of consumers are 'highly' or 'fairly' likely to use a business that responds to all of its online reviews - so it's important to take the time to respond.2

But what about a negative review, how does that affect your practice?

One study shows that just one bad review can cost you up to 30 patients, and 86% of people will hesitate to use a business that has a negative online review.3 And in today’s highly competitive world, we all know how daunting it can be to replace lost patients. That’s why it’s so important for you to have a plan in place for addressing reviews — and minimizing the potential negative impact to your practice.

Why You Should Respond to a Review

Monitoring and responding to your online reviews are essential to preserving your practice’s online reputation. Consider some of these statistics:

  • 78% of consumers say that receiving a response to online reviews makes them believe the business cares more about them.4
  • 52% of customers expect a response within 7 days of writing an online review, 25% find anything longer than 3 days unacceptable, and 21% expect a response time of 24 hours or less.5

How to Respond to a Review

Responding to an online review can be tricky, especially given the privacy concerns inherent in healthcare. While it may be tempting to try to “explain away” a complaint, or even strike back against some reviewers, taking the high road, remaining professional and not letting your emotions get in the way will help you to create the response that best serves your practice and your reputation.

The next time you notice a negative review of your dental practice, consider using this step-by-step process to make the best of a potentially bad situation:

STEP ONE: Keep It Compliant

This is the first and most important part of responding to any online review: KEEP IT HIPAA COMPLIANT.

DON’T say anything to suggest or confirm that the reviewer is actually a patient. So even something as casual as “I am sorry our service was not up to your expectations…” would be in violation.

DON’T disclose any specific details about their health or care. For example, saying “Because your tooth extraction was especially challenging…” would DEFINITELY be in violation of HIPPA privacy standards.

INSTEAD, offer a more generalized comment (similar to this one, that happens to be in response to an accusation of unnecessary dental treatment):

Thank you for your input regarding the service at SmileWide Dental. Because we value our patients’ health, we make it a point to thoroughly explain all the relevant treatments available — so that our patients are better empowered to make an educated decision about their own oral care. And in an effort to safeguard our patients’ privacy, we make it a policy to discuss treatment specifics only in private. With that in mind, we invite you to contact us directly at [PHONE NUMBER] if you would like to discuss this matter further.

STEP TWO: Acknowledge

Often times, even the most extreme reviews are from those whose real concern is just being heard. Which is why for every review (positive or negative), be sure to offer your thanks for that reviewer’s input.

Thank you for taking the time to comment and provide input regarding the service at our practice.

STEP THREE: Turn a Negative into a Positive

While you have their attention, why not take the opportunity to promote your business a little — by demonstrating that the reviewer’s particular complaint goes against your practice’s high standards? If the complaint was about waiting to be seen by the dentist, then you would want to show concern on how valuable their time is.

…at SmileWide Dental, we understand just how valuable our patients’ time can be, and do our best to respect that without compromising the quality of care they receive…

STEP FOUR: Take It Offline

The best way to protect your patients’ privacy and ensure your HIPAA compliance, is to invite the reviewer to continue the discussion offline. Or, if they are an existing patient who has identified themselves, take a moment to reach out to them directly. In that way, you can properly acknowledge and address their concerns, and avoid a public “back and forth,” which could only make matters worse.

We’d like to invite you to contact our office directly at [PHONE NUMBER] so that we can better address and hopefully resolve this issue.

STEP FIVE: Solutions and Resolutions

When you are able to address the reviewer privately, you can speak in more detail about their experience without fear of violating HIPAA requirements. Remember to listen — so that you can recognize their concern, understand the issue, perhaps provide an explanation (versus an excuse), and then offer a solution or some other satisfactory response.

How to Respond to Poor Reviews-1

The Power of a Poor Review

It’s important to realize that a “bad” review isn’t all bad. Having a patient point out a weakness in your practice can be a great opportunity for improving that process, staff member’s skills or treatment.

Secondly, having at least one less-than-stellar review helps to validate all your reviews. In other words, if anyone suspected you of tampering with your reviews to make them appear more in your favor, then that negative review would prove otherwise.

It's Time to Take Control of Your Reviews

Having a Facebook or Instagram account is not enough. What’s really important is taking a moment or two to “claim” your profiles on these social media platforms and any review sites such as Yelp and Google. More consumers use Google to evaluate local businesses than ever before. In 2021, 81% did, but the year before that, just 63% did.6

Make certain that the information prospects find there is complete, accurate and current. Additionally, read the reviews that are included to see what sort of first impression is being offered to prospects. Owning and monitoring these profiles will go a long way in maintaining a good online reputation for your practice. 

Ready to see how your reviews measure up?

Request a free digital snapshot report. This tool provides grades for each element of your digital marketing, including your number of reviews, how recent your reviews are, and your average review score. This is a great benchmark to measure your improvements against once you start replying to your reviews.

Online reviews are more prevalent — and powerful— than ever, with negative reviews carrying as much, or even more, weight than positive ones. Dental practices can successfully decrease the impact of a less-than-favorable review by responding in a measured, constructive and HIPAA-compliant manner. In doing so, you have the opportunity to not just retain dissatisfied patients, but also create a more accurate impression of your practice to help you attract new patients.

SOURCES 1 Local Consumer Review Survey, 2022, 2 Local Consumer Review Survey, 2022, 3 The Impact of Online Reviews on Customers’ Buying Decisions [Infographic] infographic-01280945#Er3Cd65GTU9zKV78.97 4 Customer Feedback Matters. Why Harvesting Online Business Reviews And Customer Satisfaction Can Help a Business Grow, 5 8 Amazing Examples of Business Owners Responding to Reviews, May 7, 2017, https://www. 6 Local Consumer Review Survey, 2022,


Disclaimer: This report provides general marketing advice. Please consult your legal professional to ensure compliance with applicable laws in your jurisdiction.

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