How much should physicians worry about online reviews?
It was only a matter of time before something like this happened. In this case, a patient wrote a negative review of their dentist on Yelp, and the dentist is now threatening to sue, claiming that the patient was in violation of a signed 'Mutual Agreement to Maintain Privacy'--a document that apparently prohibits patients from publishing/writing anything negative about the dentist.
There would be your first red flag, as a patient. But that aside, I've talked to numerous physicians on staff at our hospital about the issue of handling negative reviews online. I listen to commercials on the radio for Reputation.com, which promises to help lawyers, doctors and other professionals manage their online reputations.
"Should we do this?" the physicians ask.
"Do you need to?" I reply.
If the answer is "yes," then maybe you need to look at your practice and assess if there's something you could be doing better. This needs to be done with the clear-headed acknowledgement that EVERYTHING IN THE DIGITAL AGE IS TRANSPARENT. Realize that you can't open a bakery, a sporting goods store, or a Tarot shop (I'm reading great things about Delphina's psychic abilities) without assuming you will be reviewed online.
Take heart, doctors: According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, "Hospital and doctor review sites have not yet become health care decision-making tools for most consumers." Check out the full report here, but for all of the people that use the Internet for health care-related things, the number of people who are using it to make key decisions about whether or not to go to a particular physician is still small.
Finally: Bad reviews sting. It doesn't matter if you're Dr. Oz or an astrologist who isn't Delphina, it hurts to read something negative about yourself online. Especially if the reviews are warranted. But you have to put it in the context of the number of patients you see every year who keep returning. People complain with their keyboards, but they vote with their feet. If you, as a physician, are losing patients each year AND reading a lot of negative reviews, you will definitely want to consult Delphina on what you should do. From what I've read on Yelp, she gives pretty good advice.