Have you or your practice been the subject of a negative online review? If not, there’s a pretty good chance that you might be in the future. Online physician rating websites are proliferating and it is becoming increasingly common for disgruntled patients to vent their frustrations on the World Wide Web. Even worse is the fact that many of these websites permit anonymous posting, so you may not even know who your detractor is. It’s finally, case law generally exempts rating websites from liability provided they are only facilitating publication of the personal opinions of posters. None of this however means that you must take a negative online review lying down. In fact, given that a physician’s reputation is one of his or her most valuable professional assets, I would encourage you to proactively protect your online reputation. Here are a few things you can do:

• Regularly (at least monthly) do an online search of your name and your practice’s name to see if comments have been posted. Some search engines allow you to set up an "alert" to notify you by e-mail if your name appears in a search.
• If you know who the poster is, consider calling them and trying to work through their concerns to see if they would be willing to retract their online comment.
• Review the website’s “terms of use” to see if the posting is in compliance them. Some websites prohibit posters from personally naming or attacking an individual physician or claiming malpractice on the part of a physician. If you believe a posting does not conform to the terms of use, there is typically a mechanism to report the posting and often the website will remove a noncompliant posting.
• If you have patients with positive things to say about you or your practice, encourage them to post positive comments on one or more of the available rating websites. Not only does this counter any negative comments but it can also push negative comments further down in the list so that they are less prominent.
• Consider involving legal counsel to advise you on your options. Sometimes a well drafted letter from an attorney to either the website or the poster is enough to encourage them to take down the posting.