Tag Archives: reputation management

The Secret Recipe for Positive Reviews

In this Thanksgiving season, our minds turn to family and friends and thoughts of warmth and comfort. Similarly, these are the sentiments of happy patients at the end of a successful surgical experience.

On the surface, you may think RealPatientRatings® is simply another doctor review website. In fact, we are conducting the largest real-time study of plastic surgery patient experience in history. As of today, 32,315 completed surveys provide incredible insights into patient expectations about their cosmetic surgery experiences.

Distilling 20,000+ reviews, we created word clouds to highlight positive and negative patterns in patient sentiment. (Word clouds give greater prominence as words appear more frequently in the source text.)

Which feelings do happy patients have in common?

Looking at the dominant words used in 5-star (highly-satisfied) reviews, the patients focus on their positive emotions, i.e., comfort, outcomes and next steps. They are happy and satisfied. They plan to stay in the practice and help it grow. Nearly all of them authorize posting of their positive reviews.

Look at the words and phrases that dominate:

  • Experience (staff, comfortable, professional, confident, friendly)
  • Results (outcome, pleased, better, best, amazing)
  • Recommend (friends)


*Word cloud generated with 75 most frequently used words distilled from over 14,000 5-star (highly-satisfied) RealPatientRatings.com reviews

Which sentiments do unhappy patients typically share?

If you’re a doctor whose average rating is 3.9 or lower on a 5.0 scale, too many of your patients are saying very different things about you. In negative reviews, patients most often express sentiment within the following themes:

  • Time (schedule, appointment, rushed, waiting, long, minutes)
  • Communication (call, asked, questions, wanted, needed)
  • Money (estimate, pay, price)

They are frustrated by service and communication failures and their negative reviews focus on these issues. If you want to change the tone and content of future reviews, then you need to attack these service problems at the source. Interestingly, most bad reviews are not complaints about the quality of results, but about the patient experience.


*Word cloud generated with 75 most frequently used words from over 6000 RealPatientRatings.com reviews with ratings of 1-4 stars (highly dissatisfied, dissatisfied, neutral, and satisfied.)

In a recent article in Forbes, How Doctors Should Respond to Negative Online Reviews, author Eric Goldman urges doctors to embrace reviews, as they’re mostly positive, and learn from the few negatives.

We agree! Most patients are happy, either satisfied or highly satisfied. Patients who rate their experience as neutral, dissatisfied, or highly dissatisfied represent only 4% of the survey totals for overall satisfaction.

Since it’s been determined in a number of studies that consumers require a small amount of negative feedback in order to confidently believe positive feedback, all the effort by doctors to quash negative reviews is really misguided.

time-for-changeWe encourage our members to embrace and use critical feedback internally to improve future patient experiences, which coincide with positive business outcomes they seek:

  • Improve conversion rates at consult
  • Increase likelihood to recommend after surgery
  • Increase potential positive reviews
  • Decrease the likelihood of negative reviews

Like any recipe, the right blend of ingredients results in a perfect dish. You can personalize it for your own practice, but the foundation doesn’t change. Be sure your service and care systems meet the needs of your patients. To the extent that they don’t, your reviews will be filled with patient frustrations about small, incidental issues that should be fixed internally rather than displayed for the world to see.

Once you address and correct any problems, your reviews will be filled with the joyful experiences of happy patients who are telling their friends and family why they should come to your practice.


The 5 Stages of Embracing Patient Reviews (for Doctors)


You just want them to go away… nobody reads those darn things!


You’re mad at the people who wrote bad reviews and lose some sleep trying to figure out how to get them removed from the Internet. You might have even called your lawyer.


You ask your happy patients to write reviews everywhere. You may even start looking for ways to game the system. (No, you can’t game the system!)


You realize few patients will actually get it done and even then, some websites won’t publish the reviews!


You know reviews help you grow and that some blemishes actually boost your credibility. You just need to figure out how to acquire reviews frequently and without burden to your staff.

It’s easier to fix a scar than fix your reputation

It’s always painful to learn we’ve disappointed someone, be they our patient, co-worker or spouse. We can learn a lot from our unhappy patients if we’ll only listen.

  1. There’s no need to be defensive about complaints. While it may be uncomfortable to deal with difficult situations, there is often a kernel of truth in the patient’s comment.
  2. You can make your practice better by listening. You can’t be present for each patient encounter. Use patient feedback to tweak your practice – where it matters most.
  3. You can grow your practice by responding to patient concerns. Customers who experience successful resolution of their problems are more likely to buy again and to refer.

Unhappy patients are a very small part of our patient experience. Only 3% of our patients ultimately review their experience as less than satisfied, i.e., neither agree nor disagree, dissatisfied, or highly dissatisfied.

In our surveys, 9% of our patients report that they “experienced a problem” but the vast majority of these were resolved internally by the practice prior to the survey. In our first year, only 54 patients requested follow-up for an unresolved problem. That’s out of 8,641 surveys!

RPR’s private alert system enables unhappy patients to communicate internally and privately. They’re not rating you badly or going to Yelp!

Patients who request contact want to work things out. They want you to help them solve a problem and they consider it to be a joint problem. They certainly can’t resolve it on their own.

I read every RPR alert. Often the patient reports a previous response from the practice such as, “That’s a known complication…” which covers things from hematomas to contractures. These brush-offs don’t resolve the matter for the patient. And in these days of ratings and reviews, it doesn’t resolve it for the practice either. I call these kinds of responses, “Doing a Pontius Pilate” and you know where that got us!

I believe that as an industry, we must change how we review revisions and how we stand behind our work. So what can we do?

  • Raise Revenue Per Hour for procedures with known complications allowing for pre-paid physician time to deal with complications.
  • Increase O.R. fees to offset free surgical time that must be provided in the case of revisions
  • Make sure patients buy revision insurance
  • Charge the marketing budget for costs of revisionary surgery
  • And other out-of-the-box ideas?

My husband Merrel had a great perspective on revisions. He’d ask himself, “Will it take me less time to fix it than to talk about it?” Mostly, he answered, “Yes”. Then he either proposed or agreed to do the revision. This thrilled his patients and added to his reputation. By the end of his career, he was operating on the grandchildren of his patients, which says something about patient satisfaction with his approach.

I urge you to take a hard look at your revision policies. When you are quoting a revision policy to a patient, ask yourself, “Is my response going to improve my reputation or put it at risk?” I hope your answer will be mutually satisfying to your patient and to your reputation.

Marie Olesen