Word of mouth has always been a highly effective form of advertisement, and social media has increased its effectiveness exponentially. This is great news if the word is good, but what if the word is bad? Before the Internet, a dissatisfied patient might have voiced his opinion of you to just a few people. Today, one dissatisfied patient can spread the word to millions in a matter of seconds. Justified or not, should you rebuke a defamatory statement about you posted online?
Based on past experience, many will tell you it’s best not to do anything, or suffer the “me thinks he doth protest too much” syndrome, more recently coined the “Streisand Effect” after singer Barbara Streisand tried to have a photo of her home—one among thousands of pictures that were part of an online display showing coastline erosion in California—deleted from that site. The result was much unwanted publicity—far more than what Streisand would’ve received had she kept silent.
That incident was merely a violation of privacy issue. Defamation of character can be far more serious, especially for a physician.
The jury is still out on whether it will pay off for Dr. David McKee, a neurologist from Duluth, Minn., to sue a patient’s family member for defamation after the man posted negative reviews of him online.
“You can exacerbate the situation if you respond too combatively—and that can lead to more negative comments,” says Brent Franson, vice president of Reputation.com, a company that offers an online “reputation management service” that is now a benefit offered to members of the American Medical Association (AMA).
Franson told ModernHealthcare.com that privacy concerns also could arise when doctors respond online to a website’s review. He recommends being “very polite and specific” when doing so—otherwise the Streisand Effect can get started.