Social Media Savvy: How To Respond To Online Patient Complaints

Healthcare organizations work hard to maintain positive reputations within their communities. So what happens when a patient or a family member of a patient posts a complaint about a healthcare organization on social media?

How To Handle Patient Complaints
This flyer explains the steps staff members should follow when responding to online patient complaints. Download it below.

It is possible to respond to such complaints on social media without your organization’s reputation suffering as a result. LHA Trust Funds risk experts recommend creating a timely, proactive response when a complaint is identified on social media. This response should:

  • Thank them for providing their feedback.
  • Encourage the patient or family to contact the facility directly to discuss the complaint further. Provide contact information.
  • Provide details on when the patient can expect a follow-up from organization staff members.
  • Follow your organization’s internal complaint or grievance process.

Make A Plan

Your entire organization should also have a social media plan, including policies for all social media platforms. These policies should address:

  • HIPAA Privacy and Protected Health Information
  • Process for monitoring for online patient complaints
  • Who can respond and speak on behalf of the organization
  • Process for providing a quick response to the complaints voiced online
  • A standard proactive response to the complaint/patient online with the information outlined above. Do not respond to online complaints in a negative or defensive manner.
  • Specifics on directly contacting the patient based on the online complaint.
  • A Service Recovery program process for patient complaints expressed per social media platforms.

Stay Accessible and Consistent

Once your organization’s social media plan is in place, follow these best practices to close any gaps and make sure social media responses are consistent.

  • Posts on social media platforms should be made in accordance with the details of the organization’s social media policy.
  • Educate staff members on the social media plan and policies. Encourage staff not to respond to online complaints. Let them know who to contact if they receive an online complaint or become aware of one.
  • Provide information about your organization’s social media plan during patient visits.
  • Explain how patients can provide feedback on their healthcare experience directly to the organization through the patient representative, patient satisfaction surveys, in person, in writing, or by phone.
  • Treat every patient complaint as a gift that allows your organization the opportunity to improve patient care.

Maintain Media Relationships

Sometimes a patient or a patient’s family members will consider their healthcare experience newsworthy enough to contact the media. This can happen with or without notifying the healthcare organization about their complaint. To receive the best outcome in this type of scenario, your organization should:

  • Develop and maintain a proactive relationship with local television, radio, and print media outlets.
  • Encourage the media outlet to contact a designated representative from your organization regarding the complaint received as a courtesy before running the complaint story.
  • If contacted by the media outlet, provide the media outlet with a proactive standard response:
    • Thank the patient or patient family members for providing their feedback.
    • Encourage the patient or patient family members to contact the facility directly to discuss the complaint further. Provide contact information allowing them to do so.

Be Prepared

It is nearly impossible to prevent patients from posting healthcare complaints on social media or even notifying media outlets. Putting these best practices in place to identify and address social media posts promptly can help minimize the impact such negativity can have on your organization's reputation.

Learn More

Learn how to handle patient complaints on social media with our postable checklist.

LHA Trust Funds claims experts discuss some of the top social media exposure scenarios and how to handle them. Read the claim study.

Need a reminder to think before you post on social media? Download our flyer.

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