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Friday, July 9, 2010

Doctor sues patients for lousy online ratings

This post by Toni Brayer, FACP, appeared at Everything Health.


I must say I think Dr. Kimberly Henry, cosmetic surgeon, has made a big professional mistake. She has filed a lawsuit to stop online reviewers from badmouthing her on the Internet. She is seeking injunctions against at least 12 reviewers from sites such as Yelp.com and DoctorScorecard.com. Dr. Henry claims libel and defamation, invasion of privacy and interference with prospective economic advantage and is seeking $1 million in general damages and $1 million in special damages, etc., etc., etc.

Now I don't know Dr. Henry, nor do I know of her plastic surgery technique. I don't know who the disgruntled patients are or if they are unfairly targeting her. What I do know is that the Internet is here to stay and there is no place to hide if you do not provide excellent customer service. I was curious and checked DoctorScorecard.com and there is a brand new complaint placed today, so I don't think this publicity is helping her. It will bring more angry patients out to comment, I'm afraid.

A similar case was filed last year by a dentist in San Francisco, Gelareh Rahbar, who filed a case against a patient who wrote a negative review on Yelp.com. The case was thrown out by the judge and Rahbar was ordered to pay $43,000 for the patient's legal fees. Anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuits against public participation) laws provide some protection for online commentators as a preservation of free speech.

I wrote about medical rating sites back in 2007 and in 2008 and those posts have proven to be correct. (Reading my old posts is rather interesting and I agree with myself all over again!)

I know some physicians feel it is unfair that angry patients can say whatever they want and there is no rebuttal. But if a surgeon has that many disgruntled patients who would take the time to comment, there might just be a problem. And let's face it, those sites are anonymous and I know of doctors who post their own "good" ratings. It swings both ways.

I feel sorry for Dr. Kimberly Henry because no one likes criticism and public critique is especially hard to swallow. But bringing it even more public with a lawsuit (that may be hard to win!) is just throwing oil on the fire. Better to spend that time and effort satisfying patients and asking them to post great comments to counteract the bad.

Toni Brayer, FACP
Toni Brayer, FACP, is an ACP Internist editorial board member who blogs at EverythingHealth, designed to address the rapid changes in science, medicine, health and healing in the 21st Century.

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10 Comments:

Blogger Toronto Dentist :) said...

I agree that this dentist may come out looking very bad.

This dentist's best defense is to be extremely good at her work. The second best defense is to build up plenty of positive comments from happy patients.

One bad comment could be someone out to sabotage a dentist - possibly a competing business. Multiple bad comments looks very suspicious.

Joe Bulger DDS
Dental Blog - Toronto Etobicoke Dentist

July 24, 2010 at 11:10 AM  
Anonymous Tim Gardine said...

That is a truly outrageous story! Imagine an internet with no negative feedback, no poor reviews and no horror stories. It wouldn't be worth looking at.

It has always been the way that a satisfied customer will tell one person, but an unhappy customer will relate their bad experiences to ten of their acquaintances. The internet just makes it more important than ever to ensure customer satisfaction. But trying to sue negative reviewers? I'm glad it was thrown out of court...

July 31, 2010 at 10:09 AM  
Anonymous Dentist Los Angeles said...

Some patients don't even know what they are complaining about but suing is not a good approach. How is she going to get any new patients?

August 13, 2010 at 8:16 PM  
Anonymous orthodontist cleveland said...

If you're not guilty I don't think you need to file a lawsuit against these people. If you know you are providing great service to your patients, then there's no need to worry since you know you have loyal customers and a personal testimony would clearly make a big difference. But that is definitely not the case, and with the lawsuit, things were just getting worse.

September 12, 2010 at 8:33 PM  
Anonymous Guest said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

October 2, 2010 at 7:10 AM  
Anonymous Laura Chattington said...

I guess when someone says bad things that are potentially untrue we all get a bit angry... especially if they are online. However I completely agree with the comments that that the Internet is all about freedom of speech and we should not restrict these comments let alone support them in the court of law unless there is some legal case for them.

You know for every complaint you get there are on average 20 other people who didn't bother to make any complaint so it is really important in the health industries and in any business to deal constructive with all complaints because normally it is down to a lack of communication. Maybe if instead of an aggressive response the incident was defused there would not be a problem anymore.

November 8, 2010 at 12:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here are two links about a doctor suing over bedside manner complaints:

http://www.aaronkellylaw.com/Internet-Law-and-Intellectual-Property-Articles/The-WWII-Vet-vs-The-Doctor-A-Case-of-Internet-Defamation.shtml

http://www.superiortelegram.com/event/article/id/191109/publisher_ID/36/

March 17, 2011 at 2:19 AM  
Blogger Paul said...

The implications of these lawsuits (and the comments that prompted them) are worrying; there seems to be no easy answer beyond the curtailing of free speech or avenue for unchecked defamation. Although I will be following the cases with interest, I must agree with the commenters that focusing in on one's own practice and treating patients to the best of their ability. However, it is important to remember the rule of the "vocal minority;" those who make the most noise will get the most attention, even if they are only a small fraction of the overall populace.



New Jersey Plastic Surgeon Dr. Parker
http://www.parkercenter.net/

March 30, 2011 at 4:41 PM  
Anonymous Cosmetic Dentist said...

That's why we, dentist should have these standards in order not to upset our clients instead meet their expectations!

July 28, 2011 at 6:04 AM  
Anonymous Dennis said...

Although the Minnesota Supreme Court dismissed David McKee MD v Dennis Laurion, the entire experience has been distressing to my family. We were initially shocked and blindsided by “jocular” comments made so soon after my father’s stroke by somebody who didn’t know us. We were overwhelmed by my being sued after posting a consumer opinion, and we were shocked by the rapidity with which it happened. It has been the 800 pound gorilla in the room. My parents would be 88-year-old witnesses. My mother and wife prefer no discussion, because they don’t want to think about it. Conversation with my father only reminds him of his anger over this situation. My siblings and children don’t often bring it up, because they don’t know how to say anything helpful. I have been demoralized by three years of being called “Defendant Laurion” in public documents. While being sued for defamation, I have been called a passive aggressive, an oddball, a liar, a coward, a bully, a malicious person, and a zealot family member. I’ve been said to have run a cottage industry vendetta, posting 108 adverse Internet postings in person or through proxies. That’s not correct. In reality, I posted ratings at three consumer rating sites, deleted them, and never rewrote them again.

After receipt of a threat letter, I deleted my rate-your-doctor site postings and sent confirmation emails to opposing counsel. Since May of 2010, postings on the Internet by others include newspaper accounts of the lawsuit; readers’ remarks about the newspaper accounts; and blog opinion pieces written by doctors, lawyers, public relations professionals, patient advocates, and information technology experts. Dozens of websites by doctors, lawyers, patient advocates, medical students, law schools, consumer advocates, and free speech monitors posted opinions that a doctor or plumber shouldn’t sue the family of a customer for a bad rating. These authors never said they saw my deleted ratings – only the news coverage. Newspaper stories have caused people to call or write me to relate their own medical experiences. I’ve referred them to my lawyers. I’ve also received encouragement from other persons who have been sued over accusations of libel or slander.

I’ve learned that laws about slander and libel do not conform to one’s expectations. I’ve read that online complaints are safe "if you stick to the facts." That’s exactly the wrong advice. I did not want to merely post my conclusions. I wanted to stick to my recollection of what I’d heard. I don’t like to read generalities like “I’m upset. He did not treat my father well. He was insensitive. He didn’t spend enough time in my opinion.” However, such generalities are excused as opinion, hyperbole, or angry utterances. If one purports to say what happened, factual recitations can be litigated. The plaintiff must prove the facts are willfully misstated, but the defendant can go broke while waiting through the effort.

I feel that defamation lawsuits are much too easy for wealthy plaintiffs. If I were to attempt suing a doctor for malpractice, my case would not proceed until I'd obtained an affidavit from another doctor, declaring that the defendant’s actions did not conform to established procedures. In a defamation suit, there's generally no exit short of a judge's dismissal order - which can be appealed by the plaintiff. Being called "defendant" is terribly personal, but the civil suit path is totally impersonal. During the three years that I went through depositions, interrogatories, a dismissal hearing, an appellate hearing, and a state Supreme Court hearing; I never once spoke to a judge. At depositions, the plaintiff and I sat opposite each other, while I answered his lawyer's questions, and he answered my lawyer 's questions. We were not to speak to each other.

April 4, 2013 at 12:48 AM  

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Members of the American College of Physicians contribute posts from their own sites to ACP Internistand ACP Hospitalist. Contributors include:

Albert Fuchs, MD
Albert Fuchs, MD, FACP, graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles School of Medicine, where he also did his internal medicine training. Certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine, Dr. Fuchs spent three years as a full-time faculty member at UCLA School of Medicine before opening his private practice in Beverly Hills in 2000.

And Thus, It Begins
Amanda Xi, ACP Medical Student Member, is a first-year medical student at the OUWB School of Medicine, charter class of 2015, in Rochester, Mich., from which she which chronicles her journey through medical training from day 1 of medical school.

Auscultation
Ira S. Nash, MD, FACP, is the senior vice president and executive director of the North Shore-LIJ Medical Group, and a professor of Cardiology and Population Health at Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine. He is Board Certified in Internal Medicine and Cardiovascular Diseases and was in the private practice of cardiology before joining the full-time faculty of Massachusetts General Hospital.

Zackary Berger
Zackary Berger, MD, ACP Member, is a primary care doctor and general internist in the Division of General Internal Medicine at Johns Hopkins. His research interests include doctor-patient communication, bioethics, and systematic reviews.

Controversies in Hospital Infection Prevention
Run by three ACP Fellows, this blog ponders vexing issues in infection prevention and control, inside and outside the hospital. Daniel J Diekema, MD, FACP, practices infectious diseases, clinical microbiology, and hospital epidemiology in Iowa City, Iowa, splitting time between seeing patients with infectious diseases, diagnosing infections in the microbiology laboratory, and trying to prevent infections in the hospital. Michael B. Edmond, MD, FACP, is a hospital epidemiologist in Richmond, Va., with a focus on understanding why infections occur in the hospital and ways to prevent these infections, and sees patients in the inpatient and outpatient settings. Eli N. Perencevich, MD, ACP Member, is an infectious disease physician and epidemiologist in Iowa City, Iowa, who studies methods to halt the spread of resistant bacteria in our hospitals (including novel ways to get everyone to wash their hands).

db's Medical Rants
Robert M. Centor, MD, FACP, contributes short essays contemplating medicine and the health care system.

Suneel Dhand, MD, ACP Member
Suneel Dhand, MD, ACP Member, is a practicing physician in Massachusetts. He has published numerous articles in clinical medicine, covering a wide range of specialty areas including; pulmonology, cardiology, endocrinology, hematology, and infectious disease. He has also authored chapters in the prestigious "5-Minute Clinical Consult" medical textbook. His other clinical interests include quality improvement, hospital safety, hospital utilization, and the use of technology in health care.

DrDialogue
Juliet K. Mavromatis, MD, FACP, provides a conversation about health topics for patients and health professionals.

Dr. Mintz' Blog
Matthew Mintz, MD, FACP, has practiced internal medicine for more than a decade and is an Associate Professor of Medicine at an academic medical center on the East Coast. His time is split between teaching medical students and residents, and caring for patients.

Everything Health
Toni Brayer, MD, FACP, blogs about the rapid changes in science, medicine, health and healing in the 21st century.

FutureDocs
Vineet Arora, MD, FACP, is Associate Program Director for the Internal Medicine Residency and Assistant Dean of Scholarship & Discovery at the Pritzker School of Medicine for the University of Chicago. Her education and research focus is on resident duty hours, patient handoffs, medical professionalism, and quality of hospital care. She is also an academic hospitalist.

Glass Hospital
John H. Schumann, MD, FACP, provides transparency on the workings of medical practice and the complexities of hospital care, illuminates the emotional and cognitive aspects of caregiving and decision-making from the perspective of an active primary care physician, and offers behind-the-scenes portraits of hospital sanctums and the people who inhabit them.

Gut Check
Ryan Madanick, MD, ACP Member, is a gastroenterologist at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, and the Program Director for the GI & Hepatology Fellowship Program. He specializes in diseases of the esophagus, with a strong interest in the diagnosis and treatment of patients who have difficult-to-manage esophageal problems such as refractory GERD, heartburn, and chest pain.

I'm dok
Mike Aref, MD, PhD, FACP, is an academic hospitalist with an interest in basic and clinical science and education, with interests in noninvasive monitoring and diagnostic testing using novel bedside imaging modalities, diagnostic reasoning, medical informatics, new medical education modalities, pre-code/code management, palliative care, patient-physician communication, quality improvement, and quantitative biomedical imaging.

Informatics Professor
William Hersh, MD, FACP, Professor and Chair, Department of Medical Informatics & Clinical Epidemiology, Oregon Health & Science University, posts his thoughts on various topics related to biomedical and health informatics.

David Katz, MD
David L. Katz, MD, MPH, FACP, is an internationally renowned authority on nutrition, weight management, and the prevention of chronic disease, and an internationally recognized leader in integrative medicine and patient-centered care.

Just Oncology
Richard Just, MD, ACP Member, has 36 years in clinical practice of hematology and medical oncology. His blog is a joint publication with Gregg Masters, MPH.

KevinMD
Kevin Pho, MD, ACP Member, offers one of the Web's definitive sites for influential health commentary.

MD Whistleblower
Michael Kirsch, MD, FACP, addresses the joys and challenges of medical practice, including controversies in the doctor-patient relationship, medical ethics and measuring medical quality. When he's not writing, he's performing colonoscopies.

Medical Lessons
Elaine Schattner, MD, FACP, shares her ideas on education, ethics in medicine, health care news and culture. Her views on medicine are informed by her past experiences in caring for patients, as a researcher in cancer immunology, and as a patient who's had breast cancer.

Mired in MedEd
Alexander M. Djuricich, MD, FACP, is the Associate Dean for Continuing Medical Education (CME), and a Program Director in Medicine-Pediatrics at the Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis, where he blogs about medical education.

More Musings
Rob Lamberts, MD, ACP Member, a med-peds and general practice internist, returns with "volume 2" of his personal musings about medicine, life, armadillos and Sasquatch at More Musings (of a Distractible Kind).

Prescriptions
David M. Sack, MD, FACP, practices general gastroenterology at a small community hospital in Connecticut. His blog is a series of musings on medicine, medical care, the health care system and medical ethics, in no particular order.

Reflections of a Grady Doctor
Kimberly Manning, MD, FACP, reflects on the personal side of being a doctor in a community hospital in Atlanta.

The Blog of Paul Sufka
Paul Sufka, MD, ACP Member, is a board certified rheumatologist in St. Paul, Minn. He was a chief resident in internal medicine with the University of Minnesota and then completed his fellowship training in rheumatology in June 2011 at the University of Minnesota Department of Rheumatology. His interests include the use of technology in medicine.

Technology in (Medical) Education
Neil Mehta, MBBS, MS, FACP, is interested in use of technology in education, social media and networking, practice management and evidence-based medicine tools, personal information and knowledge management.

Peter A. Lipson, MD
Peter A. Lipson, MD, ACP Member, is a practicing internist and teaching physician in Southeast Michigan. The blog, which has been around in various forms since 2007, offers musings on the intersection of science, medicine, and culture.

Why is American Health Care So Expensive?
Janice Boughton, MD, FACP, practiced internal medicine for 20 years before adopting a career in hospital and primary care medicine as a locum tenens physician. She lives in Idaho when not traveling.

World's Best Site
Daniel Ginsberg, MD, FACP, is an internal medicine physician who has avidly applied computers to medicine since 1986, when he first wrote medically oriented computer programs. He is in practice in Tacoma, Washington.

Other blogs of note:

American Journal of Medicine
Also known as the Green Journal, the American Journal of Medicine publishes original clinical articles of interest to physicians in internal medicine and its subspecialities, both in academia and community-based practice.

Clinical Correlations
A collaborative medical blog started by Neil Shapiro, MD, ACP Member, associate program director at New York University Medical Center's internal medicine residency program. Faculty, residents and students contribute case studies, mystery quizzes, news, commentary and more.

Interact MD
Michael Benjamin, MD, ACP member, doesn't accept industry money so he can create an independent, clinician-reviewed space on the Internet for physicians to report and comment on the medical news of the day.

PLoS Blog
The Public Library of Science's open access materials include a blog.

White Coat Rants
One of the most popular anonymous blogs written by an emergency room physician.

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