Dealing with a negative online review on a physician rating site

Whenever I speak about social media to doctors across the country, I often get asked, “How do I deal with a negative online review?”

Here’s one way not to handle it: sue the patient writing the review.

There’s a well publicized case in Minnesota, where a resident posted a screenshot of the situation on Reddit, and wrote: “This dickface doctor from my hometown is suing a WWII veteran’s family for $50,000 for rating him poorly on the Internet.  Perhaps he deserves a few more poor ratings …”

Reddit, for those who don’t know, is a social news service, and receives millions of page views daily.  As a testament to its visibility, that screenshot shows the link received 635 comments.

The exposure on Reddit triggered scores of clearly fabricated negative reviews on the physician’s Google Places page, Healthgrades, and

So, if the doctor was so worried about negative reviews before, the situation is much worse now.

Doctors shouldn’t try to remove negative online ratings.  Previous attempts have failed, and in this case, suing the patient has compounded an already bad situation.

Instead, look at a recent study from the Journal of General Internal Medicine last year that showed that close to 90% of online physician ratings were, in fact, positive.

Doctors should use that fact to their advantage.  How? Provide patients with clear, written instructions to rate them online. Do not coerce or “suggest” that they write a positive review. Simply ask them to go online and rate their doctor.

Chances are, their review will be better than most doctors think, and will make the more vicious statements appear more like outliers.

Kevin Pho is an internal medicine physician and on the Board of Contributors at USA Today.  He is founder and editor of, also on FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn.

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