Poll: What should doctors do if patients give a negative online review?

Just like movies, restaurants, and hotels, doctors are being rated on the Internet. Several websites give patients the ability to post what they think of their physicians. But how useful are these sites?

Patient reviews can be manipulated. It’s easy for a doctor or his staff to counter negative reviews by posting numerous positive ones. And how can one be sure that the reviewer is even actually a patient? Or just someone with an ax to grind against the physician? Doctors are bound by patient privacy laws that prevent them from issuing specific rebuttals.

Also, a physician typically has only a handful of reviews – hardly a representative sample. So patients should be cautioned against making judgments based on such little data.

But online physician ratings can have value. We don’t have our own system for getting feedback from our patients. These unfiltered patient voices provide a window into what patients look for in a medical provider and can help doctors constructively improve their practice.

Doctors who dismiss online reviews do so at their peril. Reviews are indexed by search engines, and patients will find them when they type your name into Google.

Physician review websites aren’t going away any time soon. It makes sense to find a way to work with these sites. The medical profession can help improve the reliability of online ratings by ensuring they’re written by actual patients, and are based on real encounters.

I encourage you to listen and vote in this week’s poll, located both below, and in the upper right column of the blog.

Comments are moderated before they are published. Please read the comment policy.

  • http://www.drjshousecalls.blogspot.com Dr. Mary Johnson

    Perhaps the anticipatory/proactive regulation of these sites (in a fashion that holds people accountable-in-some-fashion for what they say) should be a part of healthcare reform?

    It’s just another example of one of the many issues important to providers that are not addressed at all by the bills that this Congress has wanted to shove down our throats.

  • NoVA doc

    Search for a practitioner using Google Maps – clicking a “More Info” link will take you to a page with an educational summary and list of all the ratings available.

    My ratings went from good to bad since the last time I checked, that’s what you get with a sample size of <5.

  • http://healthmedwatch.com Tom Farrell

    Create and actively a proactive patient satisfaction program, and post the results to your website. Maintain transparency. Don’t ignore- and don’t obsess- over online reviews. Use it as a tool for positive change.
    Tom Farrell

  • http://healthmedwatch.com Tom Farrell

    “Create and actively…..maintain….a proactive…”

  • Bruce Small

    I Googled our doc. He had four rave reviews and one horrible review. Since he is an excellent doc and a wonderful person, one does wonder about that miserable rating. Someone unbalanced, mad at the world, what?

  • ninguem

    Kevin, I think you’re a great doc. I’ll post a few nice reviews on your ratings page. Same with Mary.

    Any other great doctors here?

  • Evinx

    Most negative reviews are the result of:

    1) Staff issues (staff was rude)
    2) Poor bedside manner (dr couldn’t care less about me)
    3) Long waits (in both exam rooms + waiting room)

    Rarely are negative reviews a function of lack of competence or poor outcomes. Shouldn’t be that hard to improve on the above three.

  • JK

    How about:

    1. Encourage your other patients to leave reviews. The bigger the sample size the better.

    2. Honestly look at yourself and the way you practice in light of the reviews (good or bad) and try to understand why the person left it. Maybe the reviews will have useful information, maybe they won’t. You know unless you read them and consider them with an open mind.

    I have to say that I have looked at online reviews for doctors (good, bad, and mediocre) that have went to in the past or see now and, in aggregate, the reviews were petty accurate. Your mileage may vary.

    Heck, I even found my dentist through a forum discussion of local dentists.

  • http://LloydChiro.com Todd Lloyd, DC

    I agree with Tom. At least in my field, Google Maps is the biggest source of online new patients, and you have to be proactive about keeping your reputation good in the “Google 10-pack.” Or 7-pack, or 3-pack, Whatever it is kids are calling it.

    The first step is to claim your listing, and the second step is to encourage some of your best patients to review you.



  • ninguem

    Last negative review I got on one of those sites, was someone who was denied controlled drugs.

  • http://www.sparkspeds.com kevin windisch

    Any patient who is made to wait while we attend to a child who came in for vomiting (but turns out to be a pregnant teen) or for insomnia (but turns out to be suicidal) or is denied antibiotics for their “cold” (always inappropriate) has the right to flame me over the internet and I have no legal recourse. I love these sites. When one of the above patients complains that you have bad bedside manner, an etherial and undefined commodity, how can you argue that point?

  • http://www.healthleap.com Nikos Kakavoulis, MD

    As a physician I often question the value of patient comment sites, although as a consumer I am usually the first to post a review! Schizophrenic right? The truth is that too often they reflect bedside manner and not core competency. However, physicians would do well to manage their reputations online because it is often the first place patients go for advice, counsel or simply to find a new practitioner. Despite my personal network of physicians, I always google new guys I come across and recently I steered away from a colleague just because I read a bad review about him (which is probably unfair). Having said that, today there are many different platforms offering physicians simple and targeted ways to reach patients, delivering tools such as online booking, microsites, referral tools and more.

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