Want to know what's happening next in healthcare?

MedCityNews is the leading online news source for the business of innovation in healthcare.

“I find MedCity News a great resource for taking the pulse of the market and sourcing potential investment opportunities.”

Bernie Rudnick, Angel investor and advisor, CapGenic Advisors, LLC

Sign up for our daily newsletter

Most surprising thing about doctor review websites? 80% of physicians agree with ratings

4:41 pm by | 7 Comments

How will physicians deal with the growing power of “Medical Googlers”?As the healthcare industry begins to adopt some of the practices of the travel and leisure sector, physician review websites are one of the clearest indications of that trend. No one really expected physicians to like being reviewed like a beauty contest on their professional demeanor, the amount of time they make patients wait, cleanliness of their offices and medical knowledge. But a new report said that of the physicians who look at their reviews, 39 percent agree with their rating and 42 percent partially agree.

The American College of Physician Executives study included responses from 730 participants — the majority were chief medical officers and medical directors. About 69 percent said they look at their reviews on physician rating websites. Healthgrades and Vitals were the most frequently cited go-to physician rating websites. More than half said they believed the ratings reflected less than 25 percent of patients.

About one-quarter said these review websites provide no benefit and are a nuisance and aren’t used by their patients. But for the 51 percent who abstained from checking out what patients were saying about them, there were a mixture of reasons that were peppered with bitterness, apathy and defeatism.

  • “I think most patients who take the time to complete it have not had a good experience. Sampling bias.”
  • “No way to influence them. Why bother?”
  •  “I deal with so many drug addicts and psychiatric patients that have the time and motivation to hurt me online that it’s not worth the aggravation to even look. It will just upset me.”
  • “It’s ridiculous to treat physicians as salespeople.”
  • “They don’t accurately reflect the competency of a physician.”

So what’s to be concluded from those findings? Not exactly a ringing endorsement, but maybe a grudging respect. I totally understand the emotional component that physicians feel about these websites. It’s one thing to be evaluated by peers who understand your profession, workload and professional obligations, but being subjected to the public eye can be downright embarrassing and frustrating. Look how some lawyers reacted to a lawyer ratings website: They sued! Still, at a time when patient-centered care has become the imperative for all physicians, those who may treat patients brusquely or poorly can expect that some patients will be motivated to complain about them. On the other hand, those who have a good experience with a physician are more likely to tell others and may even want to share a review.



Copyright 2014 MedCity News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Stephanie Baum

By Stephanie Baum

Stephanie Baum is the East Coast Innovation Reporter for MedCityNews.com. She enjoys covering healthcare startups across health IT, drug development and medical devices and innovations deployed to improve medical care. She graduated from Franklin & Marshall College in Pennsylvania and has worked across radio, print and video. She's written for The Christian Science Monitor, Dow Jones & Co. and United Business Media.
Visit website | More posts by Author


Online reviews are worldwide accepted as an evaluation criteria and they should be applied to doctors in the same way they are applied to any other market sector. Denying this sentence is somehow creating a reverse discrimination.

The question is not whether is right or wrong to display doctor reviews but rather HOW these reviews are managed. The break that government should make is to create a Reputation control management for doctor review websites. A protocol that oblies websites to manually verify and analize, based on given criteria, if a review is probably true or not. This will not give 100% assurance of truthfulness, however it will minimize chances of seeing fake reviews.

Doctors knowing that such protocol is applied to a website can actually propel them to promote on it and create a database of valuable information for future patients together with a reputation builder instead of a reputation wrecker.

A new website, www.drsocial.org has a reputation control protocol and reviews are published only after screening. 

But the real deal is their marketing strategy converting marketing costs into medical research funds! They donate $1 for every signup and without subscription fee....the website is totally free!

Look what they have done with Colon Cancer Alliance:  


They seem very active on social media, delivering articles on different topic and allowing users to post their own in the forum section.

They are really different from their competitors and seem to have nailed previous deficiencies.

Their limit is that they do not use traditional promoting tools like AdWords ( I haven't seen a paid ad) because they want to grow through their donation scheme and therefore only through organic growth. If they manage to find the right health partners they can really make a difference and they surely are an interesting example of sustainable healthcare project.



Twin Cities Business Magazine
"The Top Lawsuits Of 2013" by Steve Kaplan, December 20, 2013

Dr. David McKee, a Duluth neurologist, was not laughing when he saw what one former client wrote about him on a doctor-rating website. The reviewer, Dennis Laurion, complained that McKee made statements that he interpreted as rude and quoted a nurse who had called the doctor “a real tool.” As these statements echoed through the Internet, McKee felt his reputation was being tarnished. He sued, and so began a four-year journey that ended this year in the Minnesota Supreme Court.

Laurion was unhappy with the way McKee treated his father, who was brought to the doctor after he had a stroke. Laurion went to several rate-your-doctor sites to give his opinion. That’s just free speech, isn’t it?

It sure is, says Laurion’s attorney, John D. Kelly of the Duluth firm Hanft Fride. “The court held that what my client was quoted as saying was not defamatory,” he says. “I do think the Internet makes it much easier for persons exercising poor judgment to broadcast defamatory statements, however… a medium… doesn’t change the quality of a statement from non-defamatory to defamatory.”

But McKee’s lawyer, Marshall Tanick, of Hellmuth & Johnson, says no matter where it was said, defamation is defamation. “The thing that’s often misunderstood is that this was not just about free speech, but about making actual false statements,” Tanick says. “The problem is today’s unfettered opportunity to express opinion, whether or not the substance of what’s said is true or not. We need some boundaries.”

But boundaries were not on the minds of the Minnesota Supreme Court. Free speech was. Chief Justice Lorie Gildea wrote, “The point of the post is, ‘This doctor did not treat my father well.’ I can’t grasp why that wouldn’t be protected opinion.” As to referring to the doctor as “a real tool,” Justice Alan Page wrote that the insult “falls into the category of pure opinion because the term … cannot be reasonably interpreted as a fact and it cannot be proven true or false.”

The takeaway from this case might be the knowledge that behind any rating service lie real people with real feelings. McKee spent more than $60,000 in the effort to clear his name, as he saw it. Dennis Laurion told the Star Tribune he spent the equivalent of two years’ income, some of which he had to borrow from relatives who supplied the money by raiding their retirement funds.

Content Scraper
Content Scraper

[quote]  Tanick said the ruling could present a slippery slope. "This decision gives individuals a license to make derogatory and disparaging statements about doctors, professionals and really anyone for that matter on the Internet without much recourse," he said.

Jane Kirtley disagreed. The professor of media ethics and law at the University of Minnesota School of Journalism said the ruling stems from "an elementary principle of libel law. I understand the rhetoric, but this is not a blank check for people to make false factual statements," she said. "Rather, it's an endorsement that statements of opinion are protected under the First Amendment." [/quote]

According to the Duluth News Tribune, Minnesota Newspaper Association attorney Mark Anfinson, who watched the oral arguments before the Supreme Court in September, said that the justices made the right decision. Anfinson also told the News Tribune, “What this case really exemplifies is not so much legal precepts in libel law, but the impact of the Internet on the ability to publish unflattering comments about people.”

Anfinson was also interviewed by Minnesota Lawyer. He said, “Anyone who knew about the case, who observed the oral arguments, and who knows something about libel law is about as unsurprised with this result as they can be. It’s about as perfunctory and routine as the Supreme Court ever gets. It was a completely straightforward application of long-settled libel-law rules.”

Anfinson said the case is more significant for social commentary purposes than for its legal analysis, noting that perhaps the justices only accepted the case to fix an error of the Court of Appeals.

Tribune Reader
Tribune Reader

By ABBY SIMONS , Star Tribune, January 30, 2013

Dennis Laurion fired off his screed on a few rate-your-doctor websites in April 2010, along with some letters about what he saw as poor bedside manner by his father's neurologist. He expected at most what he calls a "non-apology apology. I really thought I'd receive something within a few days along the lines of 'I'm sorry you thought I was rude, that was not my intent.' I certainly did not expect to be sued."

He was. Dr. David McKee's defamation lawsuit was the beginning of a four-year legal battle that ended Wednesday when the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled the doctor had no legal claim against Laurion because there was no proof that his comments were false or were capable of harming the doctor's reputation.

The unanimous ruling reverses an earlier Appeals Court decision and brings to an end the closely watched case that brought to the forefront a First Amendment debate over the limits of free speech online.

It's a frustrating end for McKee, 51, who said he's spent at least $50,000 in legal fees and another $11,000 to clear his name online after the story went viral, resulting in hundreds more negative postings about him -- likely from people who never met him. He hasn't ruled out a second lawsuit stemming from those posts.

"The financial costs are significant, but money is money and five years from now I won't notice the money I spent on this," he said. "It's been the harm to my reputation through the repeated publicity and the stress."

The lawsuit followed the hospitalization of Laurion's father, Kenneth, for a hemorrhagic stroke at St. Luke's Hospital in Duluth. Laurion, his mother and his wife were also in the room when McKee examined the father and made the statements that Laurion interpreted as rude. After his father was discharged, he wrote the reviews and sent the letters.

On at least two sites, Laurion wrote that McKee said that "44 percent of hemorrhagic strokes die within 30 days. I guess this is the better option," and that "It doesn't matter that the patient's gown did not cover his backside."

Laurion also wrote: "When I mentioned Dr. McKee's name to a friend who is a nurse, she said, 'Dr. McKee is a real tool!'"

Writing the opinion, Justice Alan Page noted that McKee acknowledged that the gist of some of the statements were true, even if they were misinterpreted. Page added that the "tool" statements also didn't pass the test of defaming McKee's character. He dismissed an argument by McKee's attorney, Marshall Tanick, that the "tool" comment was fabricated by Laurion and that the nurse never existed. Whether it was fabricated or not was irrelevant, the court ruled. "Referring to someone as 'a real tool' falls into the category of pure opinion because the term 'real tool' cannot be reasonably interpreted as stating a fact and it cannot be proven true or false," Page wrote.

Tanick said the ruling could present a slippery slope. "This decision gives individuals a license to make derogatory and disparaging statements about doctors, professionals and really anyone for that matter on the Internet without much recourse," he said.

Jane Kirtley disagreed. The professor of media ethics and law at the University of Minnesota School of Journalism said the ruling stems from "an elementary principle of libel law. I understand the rhetoric, but this is not a blank check for people to make false factual statements," she said. "Rather, it's an endorsement that statements of opinion are protected under the First Amendment."


Full article


In Brazil these kinds of physician rating sites are forbidden by the Federal Medical Board, and rightly so.


Anonymous patient reviews are fine for hotels and restaurants, but health care? Docnosis is a new start up that offers a much better metric. Just google it: Docnosis.




In spite of Supreme Court disagreement and subsequent peer disagreement, Marshall Tanick is STILL saying "The thing that’s often misunderstood is that THIS WAS NOT JUST ABOUT FREE SPEECH, BUT ABOUT MAKING ACTUAL FALSE STATEMENTS. The problem is today’s unfettered opportunity to express opinion, whether or not the substance of what’s said is true or not. We need some boundaries."

From the American Health Lawyers Association: IN THIS CASE, THE COURT FOUND THE SIX ALLEGEDLY DEFAMATORY STATEMENTS WERE NOT ACTIONABLE BECAUSE THE “SUBSTANCE, THE GIST, THE STING” OF PLAINTIFF’S VERSION FOR EACH OF THE STATEMENTS AS PROVIDED IN DEPOSITION AND DEFENDANT’S VERSION ESSENTIALLY CARRIED THE SAME MEANING, satisfied the standard for substantial truth, did not show a tendency to harm the plaintiff’s reputation and lower his estimation in the community, or were incapable of conveying a defamatory meaning (e.g., when a nurse told defendant that plaintiff was “a real tool”) based on “how an ordinary person understands the language used in the light of surrounding circumstances.”

From the Business Insurance Blog: THE MINNESOTA HIGH COURT SAID, FOR INSTANCE, THAT DR. MCKEE’S VERSION OF HIS COMMENT ABOUT THE INTENSIVE CARE UNIT WAS SUBSTANTIALLY SIMILAR TO MR. LAURION’S. “In other words, Dr. McKee’s account of what he said would produce the same effect on the mind of the reader,” the court said. “The minor inaccuracies of expression (in the statement) as compared to Dr. McKee’s version of what he said do not give rise to a genuine issue as to falsity.”

From the Duane Morris Media Blog: The doctor said in his deposition that with regard to finding out if Mr. Laurion was alive or dead, “I made a jocular comment… to the effect of I had looked for [Kenneth Laurion] up there in the intensive care unit and was glad to find that, when he wasn’t there, that he had been moved to a regular hospital bed, because you only go one of two ways when you leave the intensive care unit; you either have improved to the point where you’re someplace like this or you leave because you’ve died.” THE COURT SAID THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE TWO VERSIONS OF THE STATEMENTS ABOUT DEATH OR TRANSFER BY BOTH PLAINTIFF AND DEFENDANT WERE SO MINOR THAT THERE WAS NO FALSITY IN THE WEBSITE POSTINGS. In other words, the court indicated that the allegation about the statement was true.