Bury bad doctor reviews with a strong physician social media presence

Bury bad doctor reviews with a strong physician social media presenceWhen I talk about online presence to physicians, the first question I’m often asked is, “How do I remove a negative physician rating?

The short answer is, you can’t.

American Medical News came out with an article outlining the various legal options physicians have whenever a patient rates them poorly on the web.

Many of those options, including suing the patient or the rating website itself, are unlikely to yield results, and are both expensive and time consuming. Also, don’t ask patients to fill out legal documents forbidding them to rate you. They don’t work, as this dentist is finding out the hard way.

I like the rather obvious idea of simply asking the reviewer to take their post down. But again, that involves lawyers, which is something doctors may not have the time or resources to do:

Anonymous posts create challenges for doctors who want to remove negative blogs. However, identifying people behind posts is sometimes as simple as asking.

Most websites have policies against libelous statements, Schaefer said. Questioning website operators about false posts could lead to removal or to finding out posters’ identities.

If that doesn’t work, physicians can seek a subpoena ordering the Internet service provider to give identification data, said Sheldon Halpern, a professor at the Albany Law School in New York.

“Generally, whether you’re a doctor or anyone else and someone has posted what is really defamatory statements about you, you can get a court to require the ISP to give you the name of the person who did it,” he said.

Doctors can contact the patient directly to ask that the post be removed or request that an attorney send a letter warning the poster of potential legal action, said Mitchell Marinello, an Illinois attorney who practices defamation law.

Instead of relying on the legal process to remove negative or slanderous reviews, I recommend the following:

  • Ask more patients to review you, good or bad. Give them specific instructions to do so. Chances are, those reviews will be better than you think. According to a study from the Journal of General Internal Medicine, close to 90% of physician reviews are, in fact, positive. That can lessen the effect of negative, outlier ratings.
  • Be proactive about your online presence. Obtain social media profiles, like a Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn page. These pages will be ranked high on a search engine result when your name is Googled. That will serve to push down physician rating sites, possibly to the second page of results. Creating such a page takes about 10 minutes, and can be updated as little, or as much, as you have time for. Being visible on social media puts you in control of your online presence, rather than being defined by a third party.

 is an internal medicine physician and on the Board of Contributors at USA Today.  He is founder and editor of KevinMD.com, also on FacebookTwitterGoogle+, and LinkedIn.

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  • http://twitter.com/FoxVernon Fox Vernon

    Very sound advice. I agree that a proactive approach will likely yield many more dividends than a defensive one.

  • http://onhealthtech.blogspot.com Margalit Gur-Arie

    Here is an idea: get a tablet or two and hand them to established patients as they check-in and ask them to write a short review. Most will, since there’s not much to do in a waiting room anyway.

    • http://twitter.com/JasonBoies Jason Boies

      That’s actually a great idea.  I’d gladly do something like that for my own physician. 

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2LRZNHDZS6DU45WQ567LPQ7CMI ninguem

    Suing is expensive. Legal action to force the site to identify the poster is likely relatively inexpensive.

    On the other hand, a flood of such requests would be a significant burden on the rating sites.

    I mean I’m just sayin’

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ailan-Medici/1409476759 Ailan Medici

      Has this worked with your own situation?

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2LRZNHDZS6DU45WQ567LPQ7CMI ninguem

        I don’t have any “situation”. No need to do this.

        You don’t see the sort of libelous posts on LAWYER rating sites that you see with physicians. The sites know full well what the lawyers would do.

        The other way around the libelous rating sites is to spam them with responses. Good, bad, nonsense, who cares? Fill them with junk, make them even more useless than they already are.

  • http://ww.academicobgyn.com/ Nicholas Fogelson, MD

    Great post Kevin.
    In truth, getting a negative comment removed is pretty easy.  One only has to ask the site to do it.  As long as one is not abusing it, they generally will remove a comment on request, especially if it is inflammatory in language.

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