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    Easy tips for physicians to address negative online patient reviews


    If the physician decides instead to pursue a more aggressive approach, the physician’s attorney can send a cease and desist letter. Often, these approaches do the trick, and obviate the time and expense associated with going to court.

    If you don’t know the commenter: Talk to the review company

    For those instances where the physician either does not know the attacker’s identity or does know but believes that the foregoing approaches will not work, the next option is to reach out to the website on which the content is hosted.


    Hot topic: Should physicians share their notes with patients?


    Under well-settled federal law, websites are generally immune from liability for decisions to leave, or to remove, content posted by their users. Thus, the website can agree to take down content without fear of legal repercussions, a fact that is helpful to a physician looking to have content removed. When physicians reach out to a website, they need to understand the site’s terms of use. Knowing the website’s policies allows physicians to prepare a credible, persuasive explanation as to why the offending content should be removed.

    Last resort: File a lawsuit

    The final option is to bring a defamation lawsuit against the attacker. This is seen as a last resort for a few reasons. Lawsuits involve a significant investment of time and resources, and the evidence needed to establish a defamation claim is often difficult to prove. Most importantly, a physician typically does not want to be known for suing his or her patient in connection with a bad review. However, if the negative content can be proven to be defamatory, an order from a court directing that it be removed will almost always be honored by a website.


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    Whenever addressing these issues, it is important to consult with your attorney to ensure that you are protecting your interests in an appropriate, and cost-effective manner. 


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    • [email protected]
      I had a negative review written about me that I considered to be totally inaccurate. I sued immediately. Two days after the patient received the paperwork, the comment was gone. I advise my fellow physicians to do the same if they feel a comment is unfair.
    • UBM User
      It is a HIPAA violation to identify or directly respond to an online review. The California Medical Association suggests the following language “ Our practice takes patient concerns seriously. Federal laws preclude us from responding to patient concerns publicly. If you are our patient, please contact our office directly at ------- so we can address your concerns confidentially. Dr. Randall Pham, San Jose has successfully sued a patient for negative reviews and set case precedent here in California. You may wish to interview him for a follow up article.

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