In the world of health care marketing, responding to social media commentary and reviews can often require something of a complicated balancing act. On the one hand, actively cultivating an open dialog encourages positive word of mouth and can make both new and existing patients more comfortable in patronizing your practice. On the other hand, the highly technical and personal nature of medical information, combined with the legal restrictions of HIPAA guidelines, can make it difficult to construct responses that are sympathetic and engaging, yet still professional. This can be particularly true when you are forced to address negative social media posts or on-line reviews. At McCauley Marketing Services, our public relations specialists have been helping clients in the health care industry for more than twenty five years, and in that time we have developed a number of helpful strategies to properly address on line negativity.
When dealing with something as personal and intimate as a medical procedure, it is only natural for a patient to become emotional. Health problems are something over which we have little to no control, and having to deal with them can make many feel scared, vulnerable, and defensive. It is uncommon for patients who feel as though they have been treated poorly to confront doctors or staff directly in an environment where they already feel uncomfortable. Instead, many wait to vent their frustration until they are safely at home behind the anonymity of a computer screen. This tends only to exacerbate the situation, as a problem that may have once been a simple misunderstanding that could have been dealt with privately and efficiently has now become a public relations issue requiring a formal response. Avoid the temptation to take a bad review personally, and definitely do not allow your emotions to get the better of you. Instead, carefully construct a response that makes it clear you value the patient and their concerns.
Be Efficient and Conscientious
Always make it a point to reply to negative reviews and to negative comments on social media as quickly as possible. When opinions are ignored and left to fester on the internet they can take on a life on their own, polluting formerly positive feelings and making it seem as though your practice is uncaring and indifferent. Even something as simple as acknowledging the comment, by saying that you are looking into it and plan to get back to them when you have a solution, makes it clear that you value the patient while providing time for tempers to cool and a suitable response to be constructed. Although the convenience of using social media tools to create a pre-written, automatic response may be tempting such messages are usually perceived as insincere and should generally be avoided.
Take the Discussion Off-Line
HIPAA guidelines are designed to protect a patient’s private information, but they can also make it impossible to have any sort of meaningful discussion about a health care issue in an open forum. Often the best way to diffuse an on-line complaint is to extend an olive branch while making it clear that going into specific detail on-line is against policy. This makes it clear to the on-line community that you are trying to rectify the problem, safeguarding the brand identity you have worked so hard to create, while simultaneously moving the dialog into a context where the patient is more likely to be reasonable and open to compromise. Incomplete information can potentially be more dangerous than having no information at all, and making an effort to keep medical conversations private demonstrates a degree of professionalism that other patients will appreciate.
With our years of experience in health care marketing, the team at McCauley Marketing Services can help you to develop comprehensive marketing strategies designed to benefit your practice both now and in many years to come. If you would like to explore how we can help you, schedule a marketing meeting today. We’d love to hear your thoughts, so please connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ to share your tips and recommendations.