Understanding Online Reviews
Online reviews. Google. Vitals. Healthgrades. Oh, how we have a love-hate relationship with these review sites. Good reviews help our physicians shine and provide valuable patient insight, but poor reviews can tarnish their online reputation and may not accurately reflect broad patient consensus.
And, frankly, they can distract and discourage. We welcome, even encourage, patient feedback and deeply value that input. Yet, health care is deeply personal. It can be difficult to discern if that one review by that one patient is reflective of one singular, extraordinary experience or an emerging trend.
The question is: how seriously should we take reviews and what can we do about them. Here is the approach we recommend to Mayo Clinic physicians.
This blog is intended to start a discussion on a topic many of us face so please feel free to comment on your approach below.
Understanding Defamation and Libel
Defamation is a lie or misrepresentation that is intended to harm another person and is communicated to a third party. Such statements commonly appear on social media websites.
There are two types of defamation:
1. Libel (defamation through written statements or conduct)
2. Slander (defamation through spoken statements)
Defamatory statements posted to the Internet are considered libel. The requirements differ by state, but generally a victim of negative speech must prove four elements in order to successfully assert a legal cause of action for defamation:
1. The statements were false,
2. The person who made the statements knew or should have known they were false,
3. The statements were made to a third party, and
4. The victim’s reputation was damaged because of the statements.
Defamation cases are hard to win. A lawsuit will likely fail if the objectionable statement is true (or substantially true).
Statements of opinion, no matter how offensive, are always protected. Opinion statements are those that 1. Cannot be proven either true or false, 2. Are subjective, and 3. Would not be accepted as true by a reasonable person.
Defamatory internet posts are often made anonymously. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects the right to anonymity in speech, and courts will rarely order a website to reveal the identity of an anonymous poster.
Review Forum Immunity
Hosts or sponsors of online review sites are immune from claims of defamation prohibiting defamed parties from suing the website directly.
What Can I Do?
First, review your patient satisfaction results. Do you see any areas for improvement? Are there modifications you could make based on the data that might help? Do not respond to the solicitations from vendors such as Review Concierge for comment and/or pay for their reputation management services.
Second, drive review sites down in search rankings by adding content that Google will see as relevant to a search for information about you. Here are a few suggestions:
- Participate in your organization's social media platforms, particularly YouTube. Through appropriate linking and tagging, these posts will be optimized for search and will likely help displace the existing problematic postings.
- Claim and complete (or create) your public profile on certain physician network or review sites. Mayo Clinic has prioritized Doximity as having the most relevance and impact. MCSMN has online modules to help you manage this profile.
- Create your own social networking accounts, particularly on LinkedIn and Twitter. These provide opportunities for you to link to preferred content. MCSMN has online training materials to guide you in the process.