Magazine article Medical Economics

Disgruntled Patients: How to Respond to Bad Online Reviews

Magazine article Medical Economics

Disgruntled Patients: How to Respond to Bad Online Reviews

Article excerpt

Q I have a disgruntled patient who came in once and is now bad mouthing me on multiple Web sites that review physicians. She is entitled to her opinion (as long there is no slander). If I called her or you called as my attorney, it might make it worse. Any advice?

ANYONE NT'S COMMENDABLE you check Web sites and are aware of the impact on your practice. Your basic assessment is probably, and unfortunately, correct.

Defamation is defined by Black's Law Dictionary as "the act of harming the reputation of another by making a false statement to a third person." If the statement is written, the allegation is libel. It's called slander if spoken.

In a defamation case, a plaintiff must prove that a statement is false and that the false statement led to damages. Three elements must be proved: A statement, proof that the statement is false, and damages.

Most comments posted on the Web do not rise to the level of defamation. Most Web sites, including social media and blogs, consist almost exclusively of opinions.

While hurtful and damaging, most posts usually do not contain facts that can be proven true or false. A patient complaning that the doctor "did not listen" or"was sloppy" are opinions. Even accusations that "the doctor was negligent" or "the doctor committed malpractice"are opinions that are a matter of debate.

The typical legal standard is whether a reasonable person would understand a statement to be an opinion or fact. The statement: "In my opinion, Dr. Smith murdered my mother,"could be proved true or false by a reasonable person. It could, therefore, give rise to a lawsuit for defamation. …

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