How Doctors Should Handle Negative Online Reviews


If your first question is, “How do I get a negative review removed?” you should know that it’s not easy, regardless of which online review site you’re dealing with. Each site has its own rules and most major sites make removal almost impossible. But you do have recourse. Here are some tips for getting a negative review removed…

Take a Positive First Step

Review the site’s policies and terms of service (TOS). Once you understand the site’s dispute/removal policies, your next step should be to contact the reviewer by phone, if possible, and ask for any insights that may help you resolve their problem. The easiest way to get a negative review removed is to politely ask the reviewer to remove it. If that does not work, then craft a carefully written response. Your first public response to a negative review is critical.

Avoid HIPAA problems by not revealing ANY details about the patient you are responding to – in your response post, emails or texts. Apologize to the reviewer for the negative experience that fueled their review. Offer to correct the problem immediately, if possible. If you have already corrected the problem, share the steps you took to ensure better patient care or service in the future. Your goal is to win back that dissatisfied patient with a caring, thoughtful response. Your public response can also demonstrate to potential new patients that you really care.

How Doctors Should Handle Negative Online Reviews

If you see the same negative comments repeated in multiple reviews, use them to improve your practice. Not only will this reduce future negative reviews, it will give you a competitive advantage by making your practice more attractive to patients. The one silver lining in negative reviews is that they often provide a different perspective on what may not be working in your practice. If patients frequently complain about long waits, impersonal treatment or rude staff members, you may need to address those issues and avoid future negative reviews.

More Ways to Beat Bad Reviews

Here are four potentially surefire methods and conditions for having negative reviews removed. Just remember that the burden of proof is on you.

TOS violations – Every review site has a TOS policy where they list what’s allowed or disallowed. The TOS, for example, does not allow personal attacks on you or your staff, including defamatory or derogatory comments about race, religion, disability, ethnicity or other factors. Contact the review site and let them know you believe there is a TOS violation. Many review sites use a ticketing system that’s programmed to look for certain words. If you mention “TOS violation” in your subject line or message, your comments will go directly to someone who deals with TOS violations and improve your chances of having the review removed. Also reply directly to the review stating that it is a violation of the site’s TOS and you have requested it be removed.

How Doctors Should Handle Negative Online Reviews

Legal violations – Highly offensive or illegal posts can be grounds for removal. Examples of legal violations are threatening, racist or sexist comments, graphic language or content or content that is a copyright infringement. Google offers specific advice for submitting complaints about such legal violations.

Slander by competitors – If an unscrupulous competitor slanders you on a review site, you can often have the review removed or hidden. One way to prove your claim is to show that the reviewer’s email address belongs to a competitor or someone who works for that competitor.

Erroneous reviews – Sometimes customers write reviews for another practice on your page by accident. Sometimes patients write stellar reviews but accidentally click one star instead of five. Contact the reviewer using a polite, professional tone and explain the situation, and they will often amend the review or remove it. Reviewers can always update/amend/remove their own online reviews.

How Doctors Should Handle Negative Online Reviews
  • Always check to make sure the reviewer is really a current or former patient (if not, simply post that “This false review is not from my current or former patient.”
  • Always contact the reviewer calmly, politely and nicely.
  • Always attempt personal contact first, in person or by phone.
  • Always try to understand their frustration or why they are upset.
  • Ask them to remove or at least modify their review.
  • Always provide proof that a review is false using clear, unemotional facts, but…
  • Never divulge ANY personal information about ANY patient in ANY public medium, including websites, posts, review responses, emails or text messages as this is clearly a HIPAA violation.

Find a Partner in Online Healthcare Reputation Management

Handling online reviews can be extremely time-consuming. You would much rather devote your time to patient care. That’s why Practice Builders offers myPracticeReputation, a complete solution that streamlines the whole online reputation management process. Monitor your online reputation 24/7, capture positive reviews from your patients and automatically publish them on the Internet.

You will be able to see all of your online reviews and reputation management activities on one convenient dashboard. This technology even automates sending “please review us” emails and simple instructions to your patients, streamlines the review process for them and much more. With myPracticeReputation, you will gain more positive reviews and make those few negative reviews look more and more like outliers.

You can immediately request your complimentary Online Reputation Assessment by clicking here. Your assessment will include all the reviews that you have ever received on all review websites – including some you may not even know about – as well as your reputation score, which is on an A-F scoring basis. Overall, you will be able to see what patients are saying about you on the Internet, which is priceless (click here to start).

How Doctors Should Handle Negative Online Reviews

Learn more about Practice Builders and the benefits of using myPracticeReputation by emailing us at, calling 800.679.1200 or visiting

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