Docs turn to courts to protect online reputations

Physicians are increasingly willing to fight back against negative online reviews, filing lawsuits against patients and their family members who post them, according to a Boston Globe article.

Physicians, in the past, often stewed privately about online critiques they deemed wrong or unfair, citing concerns about violating HIPAA and state privacy laws. But they are now more likely to fight the negative online reviews--posted on rating sites, blog posts and elsewhere--to preserve their reputations, citing defamation.

The results of these lawsuits are mixed, according to the Digital Media Project at Harvard University, which tracks such litigation. In some cases the doctors win, and the patients pull the negative post from the internet. In other cases, the court has dismissed the lawsuit on the grounds that the negative post is free speech protected by the U.S. Constitution.

Physicians are also learning to preserve their reputations proactively by using social media to build their online reputations and monitoring the internet for posts about them. Physician blogger Kevin Pho suggested in a recent interview with the Huffington Post that physicians Google themselves at least once a week to proactively preserve their reputations. Pho, who recently wrote a book on the subject, also suggested that physicians complete a LinkedIn profile and consider using Facebook and twitter to create a larger online presence.

Studies have found that while online negative reviews can harm a physician's reputation, the rating sites are themselves deficient as they often contain too few reviews to be meaningful and can be manipulated by encouraging patients to post reviews before leaving the office, which are less likely to be negative.  

To learn more:
- read the Boston Globe article 
- here's the Huffington Post interview

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