Trashed on the Internet: What Should You Do?

Gail Garfinkel Weiss, BBA, MSW


January 04, 2010

In This Article


"He's the worst doctor ever."

"Her office has the worst staff around."

Are Internet sites that encourage patients to rate and comment on physicians the worst idea ever?

The practice of rating medical professionals certainly isn't new; Castle Connolly, a healthcare research and information company in New York City, has been selling America's Top Doctors books since the early 1990s, and US News & World Report continues to issue its list of "America's Best Hospitals." But in these cases, the views expressed are those of other medical professionals, and the accent is on the positive.

On Internet physician rating sites, although affirmative posts outweigh negative ones, the latter can tarnish reputations and damage practices. And the anonymity of the Internet allows for dissatisfied patients to vent freely and often.

John Swapceinski, co-founder of RateMDs (, a Sunnyvale, California-based physician rating site that garners 800 new ratings daily, says that 70% of posters express satisfaction with their physicians. But as Kenneth Harkavy, a pediatrician in Reston, Virginia, points out, "Satisfied customers rarely make the effort to spread good news, while dissatisfied customers will share with as many people as they can. As a result, a compilation of submitted reviews will tend to be biased, usually to the negative."

Some rating sites, like HealthGrades (, which draws 8 million viewers each month and is based in Golden, Colorado, only allow patients to answer survey questions about physicians, but RateMDs and other sites invite respondents to post comments. In addition, Internet bloggers' raison d'être is to give free rein to their opinions, and physicians are attractive targets.

Here are tips on (1) how to keep tabs on your Internet standing, and (2) what to do if you're being disparaged online and, worse, current and potential patients are starting to notice.


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