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2/20/2014
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Online Patient Reviews: 6 Strategies For Doctors

Healthcare practices can't control what patients write, but they can control how they respond to increasingly popular review sites like Yelp and RateMDs.

Surgical Robots: Look Who's Coming To The OR
Surgical Robots: Look Who's Coming To The OR
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Patients are starting to diagnose their doctors via online review sites, so it's important for healthcare practices to maintain their digital reputations. 

After all, a one-star drop in a rating can reduce a business's revenue by almost 10%, a Harvard Business School study has found. 

Twenty-three percent of those surveyed for the Journal of the American Medical Association use rating sites such as Healthgrades, Vitals, RateMDs, and ZocDoc. Of those, about one third either chose -- or shunned -- a physician because of these online ratings, the survey of 2,137 adults discovered. Since the poll was taken in September 2012, it's probably safe to assume the number of those using and relying on web reviews has only grown: In 2010, more than 112,000 individual doctors were reviewed, compared with 2,475 in 2005, according to RateMDs.

In addition, 19% considered a doctor's ratings "very important," versus 46% who deemed a physician's experience to be very important, the survey found. The majority (89%) said the office's acceptance of their insurance was very important.

[Are doctors too busy to fill out electronic health records? Read Do Doctors Need EHR 'Scribes'?]

These statistics indicate consumers are far less likely to visit a doctor-rating site than one that ranks hotels, restaurants, or movies. Yet the inclusion of practitioners on sites like Yelp, as well as medical-only sites, is likely to encourage an increasingly aware public to post opinions, often anonymously, about doctors.

Like other public-facing businesses, doctors will have to address angry comments, fake reviews, and other downsides of the digital age. Unlike many other industries, however, healthcare providers are constrained by HIPAA regulations. Fortunately, they do have some options available that allow them to leverage or control online reviews.

1. Ask for raves. When one patient writes a negative review, some offices ask favorite patients to combat that post with their own thoughts on the doctor's services, waiting room times, and courtesy. Because scores typically are based on averages, satisfied patients' reviews will balance out the lone malcontent.

2. Contact the complainer. If a patient posted negative feedback after a visit, contact him to see if the office can do anything to improve the situation. Many review sites allow a service provider to privately message a reviewer without revealing the identity of the person who complained. If the person doesn't respond or is unreachable, accept fault, apologize, or explain. An unusually long wait could have been because the doctor was called to the emergency room for a critical patient or for an early delivery, for example. 

3. Gag orders. Some practices have tried to contractually prevent patients from posting online comments or give doctors the right to veto any comments patients publish online. Turning to service providers like Medical Justice, they can take patients to court if consumers breach these contracts. Some review sites, such as Yelp, are ignoring these agreements, arguing they go against individuals' right to free speech. 

4. Reputation management. Several businesses specialize in providing reputation management services to healthcare organizations. Others, such as WebiMax, Brand.com, and Reputation Management LLC, generalize across markets. Reputation management firms monitor online posts; help build a brand; provide search engine management; deliver content management; and have online self-service tools for staff. Most of these services help medical providers repair bad online reputations caused by name confusion, ancient posts, or other problems. In addition to responding to malcontents, they improve practices' rankings, ratings, and standings across a slew of online sites.

5. Fake posts. Some reviews and comments are not the work of dissatisfied patients. They are fictional work by disgruntled ex- (or current) employees, competitors, or others with an agenda. In these cases, the best approach might be to hire an outside expert to find the source of the lie, then sue in court.

6. Learn and move on. If criticism was warranted -- many complaints are about wait times, brusque bedside manners, or rude office staff -- use what patients say to improve the practice. Consider new tools to cut waiting times. Brush up on office etiquette or go to bed a little earlier. Next time, patients might be pleasantly surprised at the improvements.

Medical data breaches seem to show up on the 6 o'clock news almost every week. If you think it won't happen to you -- or the financial impact will be minor -- think again. Download the Healthcare Data Breaches Cost More Than You Think report today. (Free registration required.)

Alison Diana has written about technology and business for more than 20 years. She was editor, contributors, at Internet Evolution; editor-in-chief of 21st Century IT; and managing editor, sections, at CRN. She has also written for eWeek, Baseline Magazine, Redmond Channel ... View Full Bio

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McKeeVLaurion
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McKeeVLaurion,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/24/2014 | 4:14:59 AM
Streisand Effect for litigious doctors
Doctors who skip reputation repair for defamation lawsuits should be told by their lawyer(s) about the Streisand Effect.

 

This is extracted from:

 

TWIN CITIES BUSINESS

The Top Lawsuits Of 2013

by Steve Kaplan

December 20, 2013

 

Never Shout "He's a Tool!" On a Crowded Website?

 

Dr. David McKee, a Duluth neurologist at St. Luke's Hospital, was not laughing when he saw what one former client wrote about him on a doctor-rating website. The reviewer, Dennis Laurion, complained that McKee made statements that he interpreted as rude and quoted a nurse who had called the doctor "a real tool." As these statements echoed through the Internet, McKee felt his reputation was being tarnished. He sued, and so began a four-year journey that ended this year in the Minnesota Supreme Court.

 

Laurion was unhappy with the way McKee treated his father, who was brought to the doctor after he had a stroke. Laurion went to several rate-your-doctor sites to give his opinion. That's just free speech, isn't it?

 

It sure is, says Laurion's attorney, John D. Kelly of the Duluth firm Hanft Fride. "The court held that what my client was quoted as saying was not defamatory," he says. "I do think the Internet makes it much easier for persons exercising poor judgment to broadcast defamatory statements, however... a medium... doesn't change the quality of a statement from non-defamatory to defamatory."

 

But McKee's lawyer, Marshall Tanick, of Hellmuth & Johnson, says no matter where it was said, defamation is defamation. "The thing that's often misunderstood is that this was not just about free speech, but about making actual false statements," Tanick says. "The problem is today's unfettered opportunity to express opinion, whether or not the substance of what's said is true or not. We need some boundaries."

 

But boundaries were not on the minds of the Minnesota Supreme Court. Free speech was. Chief Justice Lorie Gildea wrote, "The point of the post is, 'This doctor did not treat my father well.' I can't grasp why that wouldn't be protected opinion." As to referring to the doctor as "a real tool," Justice Alan Page wrote that the insult "falls into the category of pure opinion because the term ... cannot be reasonably interpreted as a fact and it cannot be proven true or false."

 

The takeaway from this case might be the knowledge that behind any rating service lie real people with real feelings. McKee spent more than $60,000 in the effort to clear his name, as he saw it. Dennis Laurion told the Star Tribune he spent the equivalent of two years' income, some of which he had to borrow from relatives who supplied the money by raiding their retirement funds.

 

See rest of article: http://tcbmag.com/Industries/Law/2013-Lawsuits-Of-The-Year
Alison_Diana
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Alison_Diana,
User Rank: Author
2/20/2014 | 2:50:32 PM
Re: Embrace patient input
Interestingly, while there isn't a ton of research out there about healthcare-specific review sites, what there is points to reasons like you both mentioned, reasons that have little to nothing to do with the doctor or dentist's quality of care. You'd think things like waiting time, providing a bathroom for patients, and not allowing staff to smoke (or not hiring smokers) would be pretty easy to remedy -- but only if offices know those are why patients are moving on. Usually, practices don't know why patients leave. They only know they've gone when they get a request for files. 

It only makes sense patients will start using these sites more and more for doctors, dentists, and other healthcare providers. Whenever I've looked at them I've been disappointed at the parcity of comments, but have noticed improvement over the past year or two. Trying to block patients from using these systems only makes a provider suspect. Can you imagine going to any other service provider if they forced you to sign a "no ratings allowed" contract?! I don't think so!
Lorna Garey
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Lorna Garey,
User Rank: Author
2/20/2014 | 1:09:54 PM
Re: Embrace patient input
Exactly - how many patients just quietly up and leave a practice for reasons that the doctor or manager could have remedied. I bet we've all done it. I know I have, at least four times that I can think of offhand.

Millenials don't buy a cheeseburger without checking Yelp. You can bet these ratings will only grow in importance.

So, what's are some reasons you dumped a physician? For me, it was that one of his receptionists always smelled like smoke. Ick. Another had a bathroom only for staff - if patients needed to go while in waiting room, they sent you with a key to the one out in the hallway.
ChrisMurphy
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ChrisMurphy,
User Rank: Author
2/20/2014 | 11:17:42 AM
Embrace patient input
Medical practices need to embrace this discussion as a way to understand what's wrong. I've seen so many practices perform badly at the experience around the medical care -- pre-surgery communication, post-surgery follow-up, waiting room communication, and the like. Having spent 90 minutes waiting in my dentist office lobby Monday for an appointment, I'm plotting how i can switch practices, despite the big headaches involved. Wouldn't that practice rather know that and try to fix its considerable problems?
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