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.