Doctor Review Sites – Are They Fair?
According to Dr. Kimberly Henry of Greenbrae, California, these doctor review sites that allow patients to post their comments, criticisms, and experiences on the Internet for all to view are just short of extortionists. She and others have filed lawsuits against online reviewers who have posted criticisms of her work. She claims that the doctor review sites are unfair to working physicians (Henry herself is a plastic surgeon) and don’t present a clear picture or the whole story. The reviews can not only lead to a loss of business, but possible inquiries into disciplinary action.
Physician groups are generally opposed to doctor review sites and attempts to do similar ranking systems through the insurance companies. It’s not that they don’t believe they should be held accountable for their actions, but that these sites can tend to skew one way in a hurry. Anyone who has read online reviews of products or restaurants has seen how one or two bad reviews can make a place look like trash. It is also worth remembering that human nature dictates that something must be extraordinary in most cases to warrant going online and publishing an opinion or review. And it is also human nature to feel more compelled to complain publicly than to offer praise.
Still, it leaves the questions as to whether or not these doctor review sites are fair. According to legal experts, it will be difficult for lawsuits such as the ones filed by Dr. Henry to make much headway. Unless it can be proven that the opinions in question were completely false and therefore libelous, there is little protection against free speech. On the other hand, it isn’t difficult to see why small businesses such as a medical office would want to stifle these kinds of sites. They say any press is good press, but that really isn’t the case when it comes to these sites.
As a matter of keeping the good faith of not only the physicians but also the public, many of these sites have begun changing and making more transparent their algorithms. This will allow everyone greater access to understand why one physician is ranked so low while another is ranked rather highly. They will also be continually instituting protections aimed at preventing the physician or his associates from intentionally ranking themselves higher or a competitor lower. It remains to be seen how all of this will play out, but if history is any indication, a site that works on behalf of the consumer and allows public input is likely to be a successful business model.