A recent NYTimes article reported the scam and extortion perpetrated on restauranteurs using Google Reviews.
Unfortunately, these review websites affect every powerless small business, including Physician Practices. None require your permission to list your practice on their website/App. At present, nothing can be done about it with existing laws.
Internet companies like Google, Yelp, WebMD etc., benefit from these reviews by monetizing web traffic or pushing paid subscriptions to the business. Their policies generally allow negative reviews to be counted without verifying their authenticity or context.
Dissatisfied patients tend to vent their anger with negative reviews, sometimes hiding their actual cause of dissatisfaction - a medical bill, waiting time, or denial of sought prescription. When compared to the ratio of dissatisfied vs. satisfied patients, revenge reviews skew positive reviews. The general public is aware of this - but it still affects search rankings on the internet and general practice perception.
Until more legislation is enacted to curb this menace, you are left with no option but to address it as part of running your practice. Even practices that are overflowing with patients need to address this as it relates to reputation.
The best ways to address it are:
1. Monitor review sites that matter regularly. Report any suspicious review on the Website / App itself.
2. Respond to reviews. Thank positive reviews and professionally respond to negative reviews. Do not be defensive or angry. Simply restating your policy or standard of care might be enough to address bad reviews.
3. Encourage enough patients to review their positive experiences. It would help if you had enough positive reviews to reflect your practice's correct ratio of satisfied patients. Website star ratings are meaningless without enough sample size.
4. Have a mechanism at your office for patients to leave feedback or report dissatisfaction. It goes a long way in preventing negative online reviews. Address any genuine feedback that needs to be addressed.
Internet is full of misinformation and falsehoods. Unfortunately, it is also the place where people find your business. Turn it to your advantage.