Bury bad doctor reviews with a strong physician social media presence

When 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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