Orlando Doctor Sues Patient
Patrick Chavoustie, CEO
Omni Medical Marketing
I read a story about a Doctor in Orlando that is suing a patient. This brought up many interesting questions and a few conversations with plastic surgeons late last night concerning medical reputation management.
How much damage can be caused by just a few bad reviews?
I believe it is said, if you have a happy customer, they will tell one person, if you have a disgruntled customer, they will tell 20. This has changed quite a bit as we all know. Today, I would estimate that maybe 1 out of 100 happy customers will post a review for you online, without being asked to do so. Since this customer is “happy,” there will be a positive review. On the other hand, one out of seven unhappy customers will post a negative review online.
Five hundred happy patients turns into 5 positive reviews. Thirty unhappy patients turn into 4-5 negative reviews. Keep in mind the multiplier is huge here, as hundreds if not thousands of people will read these reviews each month.
Who reads reviews anyways?
Over the last few months I have spent quite a bit of time looking at reviews for various businesses. I am getting married in June, and planning the wedding has led me to read a large number of online reviews. I have looked at limousine company reviews. It’s a shiny car, but will it be clean for us? Check reviews. Need to hire a band. They sound good, but will they show up on time? Check reviews. I bought a new house last month. It’s time to hire a moving company. Is their quote real, or will I get a surprise $400 gas surcharge? Check reviews… I, like most people, would be much more inclined to “warn” other people after having a terrible experience with a business.
What if most of my reviews are positive?
One thing I noticed was how much weight I put on the negative reviews compared to the positive reviews. The negative reviews just seemed to scream out, “pay the most amount of attention to me!” The positive reviews seemed to stay very quiet, almost whispering, “These were posted by the owner, these are fake!” Almost every time I read a review for a moving company, a doctor, or even a stereo receiver at Best Buy, I always take a peek at the 5 star reviews, but I always click on the one star reviews as well. There is no doubt in my mind that one negative review outweighs 3-5 positive reviews.
Fake reviews, Astro-Turfing , and why anonymous reviews should be stopped!
I hear horror stories all the time from medical practices claiming they have been the victim of unfair, unwarranted, and possibly illegal fake reviews. I spoke with a plastic surgeon, who first called us for SEO, and then explained that his ex-girlfriend went online and posted dozens of fake reviews as a way of “getting back at him.” I also spoke with a client who had a number of negative reviews all based on the same procedure that he didn’t, doesn’t, and never has performed. He has his suspicions in regards to which one of his competitors wrote the reviews.
I am all for free speech, I believe if you have something negative to say about someone, you should have no problems putting your name next to it. People are being seriously hurt by fake reviews and Astro-Turfing.
Is suing the patient a smart form of medical reputation management?
While it is certainly one form, it’s most likely not the best form. I am not sure if suing a patient is the right thing to do or not. While I do not believe people should allow themselves to be walked all over, suing could bring personal damages to a whole other level. The number of people checking reviews is greater than ever. Anytime someone searches the name of this doctor, this story is going to come up. Along with this story, search results will also show this negative review, as well as any other negative review that may have been made concerning this doctor. This only draws more attention and increases exposure. Google’s algorithm and search engine optimization is set up in a way that this story will almost certainly dominate the web for the year to come. Not only will people see the negative reviews in my opinion, they may choose to not voice their opinion for fear of being sued.
What can I do to protect my practice?
Finding out what is being said about you and where it is being said is obviously the first step. It is best to bring in the staff to help you tackle this task that should take less than an hour. I suggest using staff, not only to save you time, but to inspire them to produce a level of service within your office that will proactively limit any future negative reviews.
In order to make sure you are getting actual real time results, I suggest you clear your cookies and cache on each computer that will be used to search. If you have been doing searches related to your practice such as “Plastic Surgeon Orange County” or “Sports Medicine practice St. Louis,” you may end up with the results you have recently reviewed, as opposed to the real-time results.
I suggest you use terms such as your name and every variation of it (i.e. Dr. Jones MD, Dr. Jones, Dr. David Jones, and Dr. David Jones MD). Also use the name of your practice, your phone number, and your address as key words in your searches. Run each one of these searches in Bing, Yahoo, and Google. Each of these search engines has its own algorithm and will produce different search results. Medical, Plastic Surgery, and Dental SEO do not return the same results in each search engine. Bing may miss something that Yahoo picks up, etc.
Once you have identified any negative reviews take note of them. Keep track of each by cutting and pasting the link into a Word file or an email you send to yourself.
Keep informed on what is being posted about you…but don’t pay for it! There are many services that, for a monthly fee, will monitor what is being said about you online. As far as I am concerned this is a waste of money. For absolutely no cost, you can set up Google Alerts. While it is important to know that Google will not always return everything that is being said about you, neither will any pay-for services company that I am aware of. However, Google will pick up most, and it is an absolute must that you get going with this right away. It always eats at me when people pay for services they can receive for free. If you are not sure how to set up these alerts, shoot me an email and I will be more than happy to show you.
At this point, hopefully you have identified any negative reviews or comments posted about you and or your practice online. At the same time, hopefully you and your staff have identified the patients who posted each of these reviews. If you have yet to identify the individuals, give another go at it. Most likely the same comments that were posted online were articulated to someone in your office.
I know who posted this comment, now what?
Do your best to contact them personally. A simple phone call will work best. Ask then to go over their issue with you over the phone. If it warrants setting up an appointment to visit with them in person, make sure you are not late for this appointment and plan to spend as much time as needed to hear the patient out. Time equals love for most of us. We feel good when people are willing to spend time with us. At the least, it will show you care.
Do your best to make the situation right! This does not mean giving them anything for free, however it might mean giving out your cell phone for any reason they may need it. It may also mean offering them a discount on future services. We have all had terrible customer experiences. Some of these experiences only made us more frustrated, while others made us feel much better and created an environment for us to want to continue doing business with the company or individual who originally upset us. Only you know the best way to right a situation. Using your own experiences will give you a good idea of how to turn the situation around.
Ask that the review/comments be removed or that an additional comment be made. I would never suggest you ask a patient to remove a negative medical review right away. Give it a little time and then ask. Frame your request with “can you do me a personal favor?” Everyone loves hearing a professional ask them for a favor. It makes us feel good; like we matter, and of course your patients do matter!
I have no idea who wrote the review.
If you don’t know who wrote the review, there are two steps to take. Both are equally important.
1) Contact the webmaster of the site. E-mail is usually the only option. Inform them you have tried to identify the patient, however you are unable to do so. Suggest that the review or comments are from one of your competitors or a disgruntled former employee. Ask them if they are able to identify the reviewer. Mention you do not need their personal information, but rather that you only want to make sure it is a real person with a real issue.
2) Post a rebuttal! Posting your own comments will show other readers that you care! Make sure to be non-confrontational in your comments. Ask the person to contact you at your office so you can make the situation right and hear out their issue. If I see a negative review but see a well written thoughtful, caring rebuttal, I actually give more value to it then I would to a positive review in the first place. The value here can be tremendous! Everyone makes mistakes, lets people down, and flat out drops the ball from time to time. This we all know. What we appreciate and respect is when someone takes action to make it right!
Armando Soto MD
Other Doctors Who Sued For Defamation