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Thursday, January 21, 2021

Doctor Spends BIG Money Fighting Negative Reviews in Court – And He Loses

Prevalent medico-legal issues

Online reviews are a common practice in every industry. However, such reviews carry more weight when received from patients. While many doctors might not pay a lot of attention to online reviews, some inappropriate comments could cause a ripple and lead to specific actions. Nevertheless, recent court cases have shown that they have limited rights under the law.

Many websites allow patients to rate healthcare institutions, primary caregivers, and doctors based on the quality of care gotten. However, the American College of Physician Executives recent surveys reveal that healthcare professionals claim these ratings have little if any, bearing on their practice.

The Stats

Over half (55%) of the doctors say that only about 25% of patients go through those sites at all. Though another 21% believe that majority of patients actually check those sites, doctors have not ceased to look up their personal ratings on such sites. At least, 69% of physicians have attested to checking out their own ratings.

Doctor review sue

Case study

The Minnesota-based Dr David McKee sued a person for defamatory comments after he felt that he had received predominantly harsh, negative, and untruthful comments. Such instances are no longer rare in our world today.

On this particular occasion, McKee’s suit emanated from the 11 comments, which a patient’s son uploaded on different physician rating websites. The comments contained:

  • Reference statements made by McKee on the patient’s whereabouts regarding whether he had passed on or had been transferred. More so, the quote revealed a poor prognosis and increased mortality for patients in a similar condition.
  • Allegations that McKee left the room without proper communication with the family of the patient.
  • Comments from a nurse labelling McKee as a “real tool.”

McKee’s defence

The doctor filed a lawsuit stating that most claims were not true and even those that were true were made in a light-hearted manner and interpreted wrongly by the patient’s family.

He went further to claim that such comments could put a dent on his reputation and the entire practice. Nonetheless, Minnesota’s Supreme Court threw out the case, after a decision was made that the veracity of the comments was close enough to protect from being liable to defamation.

Final thoughts

The case study above is a lesson for every healthcare professional. Many times, going to court as a response to negative comments made online is not the best thing to do.

After a protracted legal battle lasting over four years, McKee’s legal fees were adjudged to be worth two years of his income.

Below are some better ways to handle negative online reviews:

  • Deliberate on a public response – Some of the review sites give doctors the room to reply a patient’s complaint. However, most experts do not support this because it only leads to more harmful comments. Moreover, negative reviews do not carry much weight.
  • Take the response down – If remarkably harsh and untrue, you can remove the comment. Review sites usually maintain policies to prevent defamation suit liability. Therefore, the site will likely agree to your request to remove such review.
  • Patient surveys: A general agreement among most doctors is that conducting internal surveys is a great way to collate data to find out what the organization is doing wrong or right. This way, the firm can gain better insights to improve its activities.

Like them or loathe them, reviews are here to stay (and some will last years after the initial problem), so what ways do you handle negative reviews? Let me know in the comments.

Jackson Bridges
Tech head and Hip-Hop spinnin' Nubian nut.

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