Tuesday, June 05, 2012

How false online complaints from patients can harm doctors - a guide from Dr Malpani

Doctors treasure their personal and professional reputation and guard it very carefully. However, no matter how good a doctor you may be, the sad reality is that it has become very easy for a disgruntled patient to cause significant harm to a reputation built over a lifetime - thanks to the internet !

Its easy for an unhappy patient to exact revenge by writing a negative review. It's easy to get a complaint against a doctor published online, because there are many websites which allow patients to do so. Unfortunately, they have no mechanism for verifying whether the complaint by the patient against the doctor is valid or not, as a result of which a lot of false complaints get published. The tragedy is that there is very little which a doctor can  do to protect his reputation - and one bad review can cause a disproportionate amount of harm.

Human nature being what it is, unhappy patients are far more likely to be articulate and vocal , as compared to happy patients, who do not take the time to review their doctor online, because they are satisfied with him, and do not see any need to do so !

Also,other patients are far more likely to believe negative reviews, because they believe that these must be true. It's just not possible for patients to verify the authenticity of these complaints - but today, given the times being what they are, many patients will often treat all doctors with suspicion and are quite happy to believe the worst about individual doctors as well !

There's an excellent article on what doctors can do to minimse the harm which negative complaints cause to their online reputation at

As the article emphasises, " ... it is easy for anyone to post things about you or your practice, whether about you personally or professionally, good or bad, with relative anonymity. What is said doesn’t have to be true and no one on the posting or physician ranking site will challenge its veracity unless you do. Small businesses dealing with the public are vulnerable. Professionals, particularly healthcare professionals, are among the most vulnerable.
Second, the Internet is permanent and, in time, profligate. One or two negative postings among a sea of positive ones are annoying, but the reverse is more than a little problem, and the worse it gets, the more expensive it gets.
Third, the hard reality is that words will hurt you. Negative postings not only scare away patients, they can damage the value of your practice, increase the cost of malpractice insurance (unhappy patients are far more likely to sue), complicate malpractice suits, cause problems with partners, affect hospital accreditation, licensing and even creditors."

Sadly, these negative articles don't harm only good doctors - they harm patients as well. Each false negative review  drives another nail into the coffin of the doctor-patient relationship - and doctors ( no matter how good they may be), start treating all patients as potential adversaries.
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