Hospital Reputation Management: How Healthcare Professionals Can Foster a Positive Hospital Reputation
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A good reputation has always been important for a hospital’s success. But with more patients relying on online reviews and internet searches to choose a healthcare or medical provider, a hospital’s online reputation has never been more important. Hospital reputation management is key to remaining competitive in today’s digital world.
Healthcare professionals can bolster and improve a hospital’s reputation by following these tips:
- Claim and monitor all of your online listings;
- Create and maintain a modern, responsive website;
- Build a strong social media presence;
- Provide a top-notch patient experience and customer service;
- Develop a crisis management plan; and
- Humanize your brand to better connect with patients.
At Minc Law, our experienced reputation management and internet defamation attorneys know what it takes to safeguard hospital reputations. We help individuals and businesses not only identify existing reputational risks but proactively build a positive brand reputation.
This article discusses reputation management in healthcare and how to develop a strong public perception. Then, we provide actionable tips for responding to negative reviews and removing defamatory content that could harm your hospital’s reputation.
Let us help. Contact us for a free consultation to help you explore your removal options and craft an effective strategy.
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What is Reputation Management in Healthcare?
A positive online presence is essential in today’s digital landscape—and this is no different even for healthcare professionals. One Software Advice survey found that 90% of respondents use online reviews to evaluate physicians, and 43% of patients would see an out-of-network provider if they had favorable reviews.
And more patients than ever are using Google to find healthcare, which means healthcare facilities with strong online reputations have the advantage. One 2021 reputation survey by the American Hospital Association (AHA) found that positive online reputations can result in 1,290% more conversions on a healthcare facility’s Google My Business listings.
What is Hospital Reputation Management?
Reputation management involves tracking and managing how the public perceives your organization. In the digital age, much of this process centers on your online reputation—through managing reviews, social media, and Google search results.
For hospitals, reputation management requires continuous monitoring of your online footprint. Your organization must take steps to not only safeguard but improve your reputation using methods like:
- Creating positive blog and website content,
- Monitoring and responding to online mentions of your hospital,
- Using SEO best practices to promote your branded content in search results, and
- Tracking and responding to your hospital’s reviews.
Why is a Hospital’s Reputation Important?
While hospitals provide essential services, they are still businesses. The consumer’s perception of your brand shapes how successful your hospital can be—and that process begins online.
A poor reputation could result in existing patients leaving your practice for one with better reviews and service and prevent new patients from coming through your doors. Your reputation affects your hospital’s ability to:
- Attract patients,
- Build product service lines,
- Recruit physicians and clinicians, and
- Gain funding from the community through tax elections.
According to a 2021 Reputation healthcare report, online reviews are the most important factor in Millennials’ choice of doctors and healthcare facilities. However, half of all healthcare facilities—and 65% of physicians—had zero reviews in 2020. By improving and maintaining its online presence, your hospital can easily stay ahead of the competition.
For further reading, please see our comprehensive resource explaining the importance of online reviews.
What Are the Benefits of a Hospital’s Positive Reputation?
The healthcare market is more competitive than it used to be—so a positive reputation can make a big difference in patient retention. Positive reviews and satisfied patients can lead to more appointments, while a poor reputation leads to patients looking elsewhere for care.
A better reputation makes it more likely that patients will show up for appointments and submit positive patient satisfaction surveys—which, in turn, leads to better insurance reimbursement and even more new patients. With more appointments and increased patient satisfaction comes higher revenue.
For further information, we recommend reading our article explaining why a good reputation is important in business.
What Are the Consequences of a Hospital Having a Poor Reputation?
On the other hand, a negative reputation can do severe damage to your facility’s patient acquisition and revenue numbers. Prospective patients will look elsewhere for healthcare, while dissatisfied patients are less likely to return for follow-up visits.
In fact, losing a dissatisfied patient can cost a hospital approximately $500,000 over that individual’s lifetime. If that person leaves negative online reviews, that number increases exponentially.
Increased Hiring & Training Costs
A poor reputation affects not only patient loyalty but staff retention as well.
A 2021 NSI Nursing Solutions report found that since 2016, the average hospital has turned over 90.8% of its workforce. When each turnover percentage costs your facility approximately $270,800 per year, it becomes crucial to retain as many satisfied employees as possible.
A positive reputation and healthy workplace culture can go a long way in increasing employee morale and retention.
High turnover can also affect the safety of your staff and patients—which leads to an even poorer reputation. When patients see that you do not have adequate staff present, they do not believe you can provide the best care possible.
Staffing shortages overload the employees who are present, making it difficult to build a healthy team dynamic and maintain safe staff-to-patient ratios. One nursing unit turnover study, reducing turnover can minimize patient risk and improve patient satisfaction.
How Administrators & Healthcare Staff Can Improve a Hospital’s Reputation
There are countless strategies for improving a healthcare facility’s overall reputation, from improving in-person service to polishing your online presence. We recommend starting with the following tips that have proven results:
- Claim all of your hospital’s online listings;
- Create a modern, responsive website;
- Build a social media presence;
- Provide top-notch customer service;
- Develop a crisis management plan; and
- Humanize your brand.
Claim All Online Listings
While many patients find new physicians by asking family and friends for recommendations, an increasing number rely on Google. In fact, a 2021 Reputation healthcare study found that conversions through Google My Business (GMB) increased by 25%.
New patients use Google to find providers, visit websites, and find contact information. Because consumers rely on search and digital channels, it is crucial to claim your online listings and ensure your GMB information is correct. Claim your business profile on search platforms and review sites, including:
- Google My Business,
- Healthgrades, and
Claiming your business profile on these sites not only lets you ensure your information is correct but also prevents others from claiming your profile instead.
Complete your profile with helpful information, like your office hours, contact information, and services. Keep target search terms in mind when setting up your description, and do not underestimate the power of professional photos and headshots in a Google My Business listing.
Create a Modern, Responsive Website
While it is important to claim listings on search platforms like Google My Business, it is also crucial to have a home base that is completely in your control.
Searchers should be able to click through to your website and find a sleek, contemporary page that makes it easy to find important information and learn more about your facility.
Include bio pages for your doctors, information about your core services, and (anonymous) testimonials from previous patients.
Work on Your Social Media Presence
Social media is a powerful and necessary tool in any business’s arsenal—and hospitals are no exception. An estimated 70% of healthcare organizations in the United States use social media, especially Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Further studies show that 81% of consumers associate a strong social media presence with cutting-edge technologies and satisfactory service.
A robust social media presence lets you communicate with patients and increase brand visibility within your community. It is also an invaluable channel for announcements, fundraising, customer service, and patient education.
Provide Top-Notch Customer Service
No matter how effective your digital strategy is, there is no outrunning poor service.
Poor patient services can affect your reputation and often lead to negative online reviews. Even one negative review can risk losing 22% of patients, which means it is essential to prioritize patient satisfaction.
One essential component of hospital reputation management is ensuring patient care is of the best quality. Dedicate time and resources to training every staff member to provide the highest quality of customer service.
Regularly evaluate your facilities to ensure every patient experiences a clean, modern, and professional hospital.
What is Patient Satisfaction in Healthcare?
Patients look for a good customer experience as they would with any other business—but what does it take to have a satisfactory patient experience?
Patients do not typically rank medical providers on the same metrics as other professions. To satisfy a patient, you should focus on factors such as:
- Ease of access. 57% of patients (especially 24-to-37-year-olds) want the ability to schedule appointments online. Further, 33.7% of consumers consider access to virtual visits and telemedicine when choosing a healthcare facility.
- Positive communication. Patients expect their doctor to take their concern(s) seriously, spend an appropriate amount of time during the visit, and explain the condition clearly and thoroughly.
- Shared decision-making. Physicians should determine what the patient wants from the beginning of the visit. Then, patients prefer the ability to express their own ideas and concerns and to exercise some control over the visit.
- Price transparency. An estimated 25.3% of patients between 27-34 years old believe prices posted online are important.
- Physician’s appearance. While white lab coats are stereotypical, patients generally prefer to work with physicians who wear semi-formal clothing.
Your administrative staff also contributes to patient satisfaction. Train your employees to make a positive impression on patients by showing compassion and communicating positively. Take patients’ concerns clearly and clarify expectations from the beginning. Of course, always ensure your office is clean and organized.
What Are Two of the Biggest Drivers of Negative Reviews?
The two core drivers of negative feedback that drive down the start averages on review sites are wait times and emergency room care. If your priority is improving your online reputation and ratings, focus on improving processes to reduce wait times as much as possible.
Develop a Crisis Management Plan
A reputation crisis can turn the public’s opinion from positive to negative with the seeming flick of a switch. Your organization does not need to be prominent to be at risk of a reputational crisis; these events can happen to anyone.
Reputation crisis management is the act of preparing for and responding to such a shift in public perception. Without taking proactive steps, it can be difficult to respond effectively to a reputation crisis and protect your hospital’s reputation from long-term damage.
Such proactive steps include:
- Conducting a risk assessment for your business,
- Appointing a crisis management team,
- Instituting an information-sharing hierarchy,
- Creating a detailed action plan that accounts for all areas of your business,
- Familiarizing staff with the plan,
- Implementing a diligent monitoring plan, and
- Reviewing the plan at regular intervals.
Humanize Your Brand
Finally, do not forget to reveal the humans behind your organization by giving a personal touch to your website and marketing materials. Physician photos and informative profiles help prospective patients connect with your staff and services emotionally, even before walking through your doors.
Should Hospitals Respond to Negative Reviews?
It can be tempting to respond to negative reviews with defensiveness. But sometimes, responding to these reviews can do more harm than good.
How Hospitals Should Respond to Negative Online Reviews
We generally do NOT recommend that hospitals and healthcare professionals respond to negative online reviews.
Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) regulations and patient confidentiality concerns bind physicians. Therefore, you are much more limited in how you respond to public consumer reviews than other typical businesses.
If you do decide responding to a negative review is worth the risk, follow these tips:
- Do not call the patient by name (even if they provided a name in their review);
- Do not give details of the visit or even confirm whether the visit happened;
- Do not blame the patient or use defensive language;
- Apologize and be empathetic; and
- Consider reaching out to the patient privately instead, if possible.
HIPAA Considerations to Keep in Mind
As a healthcare professional, you are already well-versed in HIPAA regulations. However, it can be difficult to know how these regulations apply to online interactions.
Regarding patient reviews, HIPAA prohibits responses that are not general statements about your practices and procedures. A statement like “We aim to provide the highest value service to each patient” does not violate HIPAA, for instance.
But if you acknowledge that a reviewer was a patient or discuss any details about their visit, you may risk fines or disciplinary action.
Consider Adding a Disclaimer to Your Hospital’s Website
You may also want to add a disclaimer to your website and your profiles on review sites. This disclaimer can explain that you cannot respond to online reviews due to confidentiality concerns. That way, potential patients reading poor reviews understand why you have not responded.
For example, your disclaimer might read something like this:
Online reviews are a useful tool for potential patients to educate themselves and choose the right medical services for them. However, while we greatly value patient feedback and use it to improve our services, we are bound by patient confidentiality. Please be aware that, unlike other businesses that may respond freely to online reviews, we are prohibited from responding in any way that acknowledges whether someone has been in our care. If you have an issue that requires attention, we invite you to contact our office directly.”
Other Considerations When Responding to Negative Hospital Reviews
It is best to handle negative and harmful reviews on a case-by-case basis. However, in all cases, it is best to avoid becoming defensive or attacking the patient. Always avoid disclosing any confidential information that could violate HIPAA, and in most cases, it is best to avoid responding publicly if you can.
Also, while this section has focused primarily on negative reviews, be aware that you can land yourself in trouble interacting with positive reviews as well. Always ask permission before republishing positive online reviews from a consumer review platform to your own site. Doing so without the poster’s consent could result in a hefty fine from the Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights.
For more tips for responding appropriately to patient feedback, see our article: “How Doctors Should Respond to Bad Online Reviews.”
How Healthcare Professionals Can Remove Fake Online Reviews
If a review is clearly fake or published by a competitor, it may be necessary to take action. In this section, we provide actionable tips for spotting and removing fake reviews.
How Can Healthcare Professionals Spot Fake Online Reviews?
Some fake reviews are easy to spot. But others can seem real—especially if the poster is a disgruntled former employee or a dissatisfied patient who is exaggerating their real experience.
Here are a few common ways to identify a fake online review.
Consult Patient Records
First, check your records to see if the reviewer’s username matches real patient names. Look for recorded patient complaints or incidents that may resemble the reviewer’s experience at your facility.
Research the Reviewer’s Account
Look for signs that the reviewer created their account purely to defame your hospital. If the account was created on the same day of the review and has no other review history, it is likely a fake review.
Identify if the Username is Suspicious
Many fake reviewers mask their identity by choosing simple names like “John D.” or “Jane S.” Others cannot resist the temptation to use sarcastic pseudonyms like “Seymore Butts” and “Ben Dover.”
You can also run a reverse image search on the reviewer’s profile picture. If the photo appears on stock photo sites, this is a red flag that the account is not legitimate.
Analyze the Timing of the Review
If your normally highly-rated hospital suddenly receives multiple one-star reviews, it could be a sign that bad-faith actors are targeting you.
Similarly, look at the time stamps on the reviews themselves. If they are left at strange hours (like the middle of the night in your patients’ timezone), they were likely not submitted by real patients.
Analyze the Language Used
Does the review go out of its way to promote a competitor? Does it describe your services inaccurately or name a staff member you have never heard of? Especially if you see a few reviews with these same characteristics, the reviews are likely fake.
Look for Signs That it Was a Professional “Hit Job”
Unfortunately, some businesses resort to unprincipled schemes to attract more customers. These schemes include hiring professional reviewers to attack competitors.
These review “hitmen” are usually located outside the U.S. Were the reviews obviously translated from another language or riddled with grammatical errors? Were they left at odd hours, as if the reviewer is in a faraway timezone? If so—and if this is happening more than once—it may be an indication of a hit job.
How Healthcare Professionals Can Remove Negative & Fake Reviews
Everyone receives a bad review eventually. It is not necessary to remove every negative review you receive.
But if you spot a negative review and believe it has the potential to do lasting damage to your reputation, you may want to remove it.
Sometimes, all it takes to remove a negative review is offering an empathetic ear and a helpful resolution to the patient’s issue. Providing exceptional customer service can restore your relationship with that patient and prompt them to remove the negative review on their own.
In other cases—such as in the case of a fake review—the reviewer is not open to making amends. You may need to resort to legal action to resolve the situation.
In this section, we provide five actionable tips for responding to and removing harmful hospital reviews.
Preserve Evidence of the Review
Take screenshots of the review(s) in question. If you choose to pursue legal action, you want evidence of the harmful review, even if the poster or platform takes it down.
Then, you may want to contact a defamation attorney to discuss your options.
Ask the Reviewer to Remove the Review
If a real patient left the review, they might simply want to be heard. Reach out to them via phone to find out how to resolve the situation. Once their concern is addressed, the patient will likely remove or update their review accordingly.
Flag & Report the Review
All review platforms have Terms of Service that both reviewers and businesses must follow. Most of these guidelines prohibit fake reviews.
If you believe a review is in violation of a platform’s Terms of Service, you can flag and report it to the website. Keep HIPAA regulations in mind, however, when reporting content to a third party. Do not identify a real patient or share confidential information with the platform’s moderators.
Given the delicacy of navigating HIPAA regulations when making a report, it is usually best to seek help from an attorney.
For medical professionals and healthcare providers seeking to improve their online reviews, please see our guide to business review management.
Pursue Legal Action
In some cases, your best option may be a lawsuit or a cease and desist letter. These cases include if the reviewer brings serious allegations—like malpractice, discrimination, or criminal activity—against your hospital. If the review has the potential to damage your hospital’s reputation, it may be worthwhile to bring legal action against the poster.
A lawsuit can be an effective tool for unmasking an anonymous poster. It can also result in a court order to remove the harmful content. If you are considering pursuing legal action, please see our resource explaining why you should consider hiring an attorney as your online reputation expert.
Use Online Reputation Management Services
While the best way to handle negative reviews is to have them removed, that may not always be possible. Online reputation management (ORM) services use a mix of content removal, digital marketing, and public relations strategies to protect your online presence.
For example, by creating new branded content and using SEO techniques to boost that positive content in search results, your ORM team suppresses that negative content even if it cannot be removed.
To best find an ORM provider that aligns with your hospital’s mission and reputation needs, please see our comprehensive guides explaining how to choose an ethical and effective online reputation management company and how much online reputation management costs.
We Help Healthcare Professionals With Their Online Reputations
At Minc Law, we understand the devastating effects a less-than-stellar online reputation can have on your hospital’s success and bottom line. We have extensive experience helping hundreds of businesses clean up their digital footprints, remove damaging and defamatory content (including false patient reviews), and monitor the internet for digital threats.
“Dorrian was prompt, professional, understood my concerns, and acted swiftly and decisively to help solve my issue.”
Dr. Anthony P.
Dec 16, 2021
We provide customizable online reputation management services for both individuals and businesses at every price point. If you would like to explore ORM services to bolster and clean up your organization’s online presence, reach out to schedule your no-obligation consultation by calling (216) 373-7706, speaking with a Chat Representative, or filling out our online contact form.
Mark Et Al. Impact of nursing unit turnover on patient outcomes in hospitals. Journal of Nursing Scholarship (2009).
Ventola. Social Media and Health Care Professionals: Benefits, Risks, and Best Practices. National Library of Medicine (2014).