How do hospitals handle dishonest patient reviews? Execs from Cleveland Clinic, UCHealth & more discuss

When Americans need to find care, the first place they usually go is Google. With hospitals' ratings and reviews often affecting healthcare consumers' decision about where to seek care, what options are available when a patient writes a misleading or dishonest review?

Below, six health system executives discuss how their health system handles negative reviews.

Editor's note: Responses have been edited lightly for clarity and style.

Adrienne Boissy, MD. Chief Experience Officer at Cleveland Clinic. A physician’s rating will only be posted on the site providing they have a minimum of 30 completed surveys. We do not post comments that are libelous, slanderous, profane, irrelevant or otherwise inappropriate or may risk the privacy of our patients. When a clinician has a concern about what has been posted, we listen, internally review, respond and invite the clinician to draft a response that can be posted online.

Andrew Resnick, MD. Senior Vice President & Chief Quality and Safety Officer at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. The patient experience is the experience of the patient, and we don’t dilute or judge this in any way. We strive to provide an exemplary experience every time, but if there is a negative review, we take the patient at their word and do not edit the review or rating. We make sure our providers receive regular reports that include scores and patient comments, ensuring the feedback from patients is seen.

Suzanne Bharati Hendery. Chief Marketing and Customer Officer at Renown Health (Reno. Nev.). Our social media team reviews every comment before posting. We do not publish any comments that are considered libelous, slanderous or provide protected health information. If there is a concerning comment, we hold it back for review and a vote by a patient posting review committee. If the committee finds the comment is helpful to the provider to improve their practice, or a potential patient, it is published. Very, very few (0.02 percent) of the comments have not been published. Even if they are not published, these patient comments are shared with the provider and their leadership for continuous improvement.      

Kim Accorsi. Director of Digital Services at Dartmouth-Hitchcock (Lebanon, N.H.). Transparency comes at the cost of potentially having less than five-star reviews. The thing we often forget is consumers are savvy and conditioned nowadays and know how to look for trends in reviews, and a few isolated negative reviews doesn’t necessarily mean they will choose not to see a provider or visit a healthcare location.

When you are self-hosting a review, you have the option to allow a provider to review and offer their side of the story. You might choose to offer clarifying comments on your website in response to something that is misleading. We’ve enabled this ability at Dartmouth-Hitchcock — we can comment as the organization to an individual comment if clarity is needed.

With major search engines like Google currently integrating business website ratings into their knowledge card, you have an indirect way to balance the scales if a few negative comments are posted elsewhere.

Vincent Serio. Director of Digital and Emerging Media at UCHealth (Aurora, Colo.). This is tricky because you want a fair process, but one that also allows for identifying reviews that are abusive, reveal protected health information, etc. As a safety precaution, we use an algorithm to flag suspicious reviews that are sent to a committee for review before they are posted.

Sarah Sanders. Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer at Nemours Children’s Health System (Jacksonville, Fla.). One perspective in this area is to honestly say that providers are sometime hesitant to share reviews for this very reason. There are two sides to every story, and even when seeking to have the best outcomes for every patient, sometimes our perspectives do not align.  But when you are sharing reviews, it is a leap of faith and trust that good outweighs the negative.   

At Nemours, delivering on an stellar patient experience is critical to our mission. But family-centered care is complex. We know that despite our best efforts, a negative review is inevitable from time to time. When we identify a negative review, we immediately reach out to the person who posted it. If the circumstances are care-related, we offer to put them in touch with our patient experience team to understand their feedback. We then work with our patient experience and clinical operations teams to implement service recovery. Often, it does not escalate to this level.  Our initial response — because we understand it’s personal — makes an impact.

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