How to Write an Online Review of Your Doctor

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Physician review websites have become a popular resource for people who are deciding whether a doctor may be the right fit. Like hotel and restaurant review sites, these consumer portals allow anyone to share an opinion, rate a practitioner, and view comments from others.

You can learn useful information by searching these sites, and you can also use them to share your insights with others. But there are some important things to keep in mind when you are evaluating the information you see and deciding whether and how you should post.

How to Use a Review Site

When using a review website, you often need to read between the lines to ascertain the intent of the person posting a comment and to look at reviews objectively, with your own priorities in mind.

Exaggerated Reviews

A completely negative, one-star rating or an overwhelmingly positive, five-star rating may be biased for a number of reasons.

Exaggerated negative ratings are often driven not by poor medical care, but by patients who are angry that they did not receive prescriptions for narcotics or other substances of abuse.

Posting a negative online review is such a common tactic used by patients that hospitals, referring physicians, and licensing boards are completely aware that anonymous and extremely negative online reviews are typically posted by drug seekers.

Similarly, a glowing or unrealistic review claiming that a physician is the only one who has ever been able to help may also be exaggerated, posted by the doctor's friend or family, and may not offer true insight that could be valuable for your situation.

Balanced Reviews

The doctor you are considering may have some pros and cons listed. For example, a highly sought after physician may be rated as competent, but blunt. If you have a very complicated medical situation, you may think that it is worth it to forgo friendly chatter if you can get your medical problem assessed by a leader in the field.

On the other hand, a doctor who has long waiting room times but responds efficiently to phone calls may be a good fit for you if you can tolerate waiting for your appointments, but expect good communication between appointments.

Choosing to Post or Not to Post

While it may be easy for you to shoot off a quick review of a new restaurant or hotel, you should give a second thought to whether it's a good idea to do the same for a doctor.

Remember that once your review is posted, others are going to use your comment to determine whether the doctor is qualified to treat them. Guiding peoples' health care decisions is a much bigger responsibility than helping someone to decide whether a restaurant is a hit or miss. As such, your comments should reflect that responsibility both in its tone and intent.

Before you review a doctor, identify your intentions. Are you posting a comment because:

  • Do you want to help others by providing genuine insights?
  • You're furious and feel the need to vent?
  • You are seeking revenge for a high bill or a canceled appointment?
  • You're a serial poster who simply likes posting across all social platforms?

If your reason is anything but the first, you may want to think twice about posting.

When you want to get results, there are far better outlets to share your complaints, such as speaking to the hospital where your doctor works, calling the state licensing board, or simply speaking with your doctor first.

Even if you are angry, venting your anger online is rarely productive. An online forum should never be the first place you go to complain because it is not designed as a means to get effective results.

If You Decide to Post a Review

If you decide to post an online review, be sure to put some thought into it. A savvy reader will typically weigh the comments in their totality and turn to the most balanced ones to gain actual insight.

Ultimately, the aim of a posting should be to offer a fair review that can help other users make a decision. It is often most helpful to list both the pros and cons of your experience briefly. Doing so cuts to the chase, allowing the reader to cull insights without having to plow their way through paragraph after paragraph of text.

  • If listing pros and cons, bulleted lists can help readers get through the points faster.
  • Avoid generalities. If there is an incident or issue you want to share, be specific but concise. Avoid rambling or engaging in "he-said-she-said" accounts.
  • Offer readers insights about more than one aspect of the practice if possible, not just one. Even if a receptionist was incredibly rude, it doesn't help anyone if that is all you write about.
  • Do not let your personal feelings demean a doctor's competency. Suggesting that people should avoid a doctor because you didn't like him or her really helps no one. For example, a doctor who is of a different ethnic background, religion, sexual orientation, or political leaning is not someone who "should never practice medicine".
  • Avoid using negative labels like "the worst," "horrid," and "the rudest" and find other ways to express your feelings. Even if you have a valid complaint that you need to air, readers will skip over it if seems you are only there to trash the doctor.
  • Avoid using all caps or multiple exclamation points. People have learned to ignore such comments even if there is valuable information to share.

Defamation

Finally, remember that there is a fine line between negativity and defamation. In the same way that a hotel can lose customers if someone claims there are bed bugs, doctors can lose patients if there is any suggestion of impropriety of any sort. If a comment is posted has that effect, some doctors may sue.

In 2015, Dr. Bahman Guyuron, a highly qualified plastic surgeon and former chairman of the department of plastic surgery at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, sued a woman for her online posts. In his deposition, Guyuron asserted that the woman's "relentless, vindictive, and false accusations" compelled him to file the lawsuit. Other similar cases are making their way to court, and the jury often awards in favor of the doctors.

While this shouldn't discourage you from posting, it does suggest that you do so responsibly, fairly, and with the full knowledge that, once you hit the "POST" button, your words are out there permanently.

A Word From Verywell

Online reviews are becoming more valuable in recent years. Reviewing health services and physicians, while easy to do, carries greater responsibility than more people realize. Keep in mind that your online review affects peoples' health.

If you can share your experience to the benefit of others, you may be doing a great service. If you tend to ruminate, become furious easily, and frequently feel vindictive, consider seeking psychological help rather than partaking in harmful online or other revenge-motivated activities that could land you in legal trouble.

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Article Sources

  • Samora JB, Lifchez SD, Blazar PE; American Society for Surgery of the Hand Ethics and Professionalism Committee. Physician-Rating Web Sites: Ethical Implications. J Hand Surg Am. 2016 Jan;41(1):104-10.e1. doi: 10.1016/j.jhsa.2015.05.034. Epub 2015 Aug 22.