Patients going online to ‘rate their doctor’ is a growing trend in the medical profession. Websites such as ratemds.com provide a custom made forum for patients to rate their doctor on a scale of one to five, and make a comment about the treatment they received. This trend can also be seen in other web forums, such as blogs, Twitter and Facebook.

Issues can arise when patients or competitors post abusive or defamatory comments online about a doctor. This can range from unfounded allegations of medical negligence to threats of violence and accusations of criminal behaviour.

It is now very common for a prospective patient to Google a doctor’s name. This may just be to find a phone number or to get directions to the doctor’s rooms. However, it is the other results that may show up on page one of a Google search that can cause a problem.

If a doctor is named in a patient review, a search engine is likely to pick up that webpage when the doctor’s name is searched. This is because the webpage hosting the patient’s comment matches the terms used in the search. This means that an untrue, abusive or defamatory review may appear when a prospective patient searches for the doctor’s name.

These types of patient reviews can potentially be devastating for both a doctor’s professional reputation and business. Even if the review is totally untrue, it is the first or second thing that a patient reads about the doctor.

We have successfully acted for a number of doctors who have been the subject of abusive and defamatory online patient reviews. In these circumstances, steps can be taken to try and limit the damage to a doctor’s practice and professional reputation. It may be possible to track down the administrators of the website, explain why the review is abusive or defamatory and ask for the comment to be removed. As the ‘rate my doctor’ trend continues to grow, it is important for doctors to be aware of these issues and their online reputation.

This publication is general in nature and is not comprehensive or constitute legal or medical advice. You should seek legal, medical or other professional advice before relying on any content, and practice proper clinical decision making with regard to individual circumstances. Persons implementing any recommendations contained in this publication must exercise their own independent skill or judgment or seek appropriate professional advice relevant to their own particular practice. Compliance with any recommendations will not in any way guarantee discharge of the duty of care owed to patients and others coming into contact with the health professional or practice. Tego Insurance Pty Ltd is not responsible to you or anyone else for any loss su­ffered in connection with the use of this information.