Spoiler Alert: No. They can’t.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, read on if you want to understand the not-so-subtle differences that separate the professional reputation management services from the scammers.
Anyone who can configure Google Alerts is starting their own reputation management service these days. So many hacks are entering the market that Ripoff Report – a site dedicated to voicing complaints about businesses – has a banner on the very top of their website warning people who find their names on their site to beware of “reputation management companies” that make empty promises like removing negative posts.
Ripoff Report is naturally a juicy target for reputation management companies, and for good reason. For reputation companies, it is the equivalent of opening up a car body shop across from the most collision-prone intersection in the country. Find a business owner with a problem, promise the solution, and get rich. Worry about the viability of those promises later.
In an effort to protect Medical Justice members from online defamation (the communication of false claims that damage the image of a person, business, etc.), we, at one stage, advocated a proprietary patient-doctor agreement that essentially just bound the patient to the law. One would think that these types of agreements are unnecessary, because after all everyone follows the law, especially on the Internet behind the guise of anonymity. Patients were in no way prohibited from writing negative reviews – we actually encouraged patients to write reviews – but the line was drawn at true defamation (meaning false statements about a practice – not opinion statements). A false statement might be “Dr. John Doe is not board certified” – when he is. An opinion statement might be “Dr. Doe has horrible bedside manner.”
Although these agreements were ethical, legal, and reasonably effective, the ultimate question was whether it was worth the time and effort to enforce these agreements against rating sites if the site wanted to defend. Over time we learned that many of the rating sites were actually starting to do a better job of policing the content. Not all sites, but most. Hence, we moved away from the agreements and our intent of protecting our members’ reputations online evolved into our eMerit program.
There are only two entities that have the capability to remove a post:
- The poster him/herself (sometimes that is not even the case); or
- The website moderator.
No other legal means exists.
So, then, if a company promises to remove posts on other websites, either:
- They put them there; or
- It’s their site.
The offending reputation management companies that some sites are warning people about are charging individuals for problems that they themselves create.
eMerit differentiates itself on multiple levels. Our full-service medical reputation program focuses on:
a) Monitoring what people say about you on the Internet;
b) Responding in a HIPAA-compliant way; and
c) Enabling point of care real reviews on an iPad by confirmed patients.
Both doctors and patients have fully embraced the eMerit program as a means to actively promote their practice, while simultaneously facilitating and leveraging open communication.
Are there other ways for false or fictional reviews to be removed? The short answer is yes, but there are no guarantees.
Just remember, the people reading reviewing your request to remove are people just like you. Coat your request with sugar, as opposed to a biologic product produced in the colon. Ultimately, it’s up to the site’s judgment whether the post stays or goes.
2. If you know who the patient is, reach out. The patient’s perceived problem may be solvable. If you connect and solve the problem, ask the patient to remove the post. Many will oblige. Often when a patient writes a nasty review, the prime motivation is not malicious intent, but failure of communication.
3. Don’t feel you need to have 100% positive reviews. Counterintuitively, the public does not view a 100% rating as truly ideal – it looks suspect. The public knows you can’t make 100% of people happy 100% of the time. Doubt that assertion? Spend some time on the Ritz-Carlton review site. There’s always someone who was not happy with the chocolate the house-staff placed on the pillow. More effective than 100% positive reviews is mostly positive reviews. An occasional negative will not destroy your practice. On the contrary, an occasional negative with a thoughtful HIPAA compliant response puts you in an even better position.
4. It’s all a numbers game – it’s significantly easier to combat the sting associated with a negative review if you already have a buffer of positive reviews. Encourage your patients to review you. Make it easy for them… enable point of service care reviews with eMerit. Without diving into the math, commit these premises to memory:
a) If you currently only have a few patient reviews, and these reviews stink, you will need a significant (exponentially greater) number of reviews to overcome this early cacophony.
b) Conversely, if you start with a buffer of mostly favorable reviews, then the inevitable negative review(s) will have little overall impact.
In sum, beware of companies promising guarantees they will be able to remove patient posts 100% of the time. If they do it via computer mischief, they have broken the law. If they posted the rotten review in the first place, they are unethical.
eMerit can help you obtain real reviews from confirmed patients at the point of care on an iPad. It doesn’t get any easier. And that’s a pretty good guarantee.