Dallas free-standing ERs want Google to identify the people behind 22 negative online reviews

A Texas court has granted a request from two free-standing emergency rooms to question Google about the identities of more than 20 people who left negative online reviews about the two facilities. 

Highland Park Emergency Center and Preston Hollow Emergency Room, both based in Dallas, filed a petition (PDF) in Dallas County District Court last week, requesting permission to depose Google related to the reviews. In the court filing, the two ERs said that 22 negative posts on Google Reviews were from people who likely never received care at either facility. 

Both ERs typically follow up negative online reviews by confirming via medical records where the patients were treated and by contacting the patients directly. In the case of these posts, staff could not find records that the patients or guardians or representatives for the patients who posted reviews were seen at Highland Park or Preston Hollow.

The two facilities "believe that the reviewers were contracted or hired by a competitor of Petitioners to intentionally and fraudulently post the false one-star reviews on Google Reviews in order to damage" their reputations and direct business elsewhere, they said in the filing. 

RELATED: Doctors, ignore millennials' online reviews at your peril 

The two ERs filed their petition on Oct. 17, and the request was granted (PDF) the following day. A citation (PDF) was issued to Google on Oct. 20. 

In the filing, the two facilities said they will use the information obtained in Google's deposition to determine whether they should seek legal action against the reviewers. Many of the negative reviews were related to the price of care at the two ERs; for instance, one woman wrote that she was pleased with the care she received at Highland Park, but said she became convinced that it was a scam after receiving a bill for $8,000. 

Online reviews pose a challenge for providers. Patients like and often use physician rating websites and other similar online tools, but online ratings can stress out physicians. Doctors are also far less likely than patients to trust information posted on consumer sites like Healthgrades and prefer data from internal patient experience surveys. 

RELATED: Physician-rating websites don't provide meaningful information, study finds 

But how such reviews are handled could give some hospitals and practices the edge with certain patients. Providers are advised not to ignore online posts but should instead offer a calm, empathetic response.