Online Reviews – What Not To Do! Practice Fined $300k

Typically the largest referring source in an elective health care practice is their “word of mouth” reputation.  Happy patients refer friends, family and often times strangers to the practice as their satisfaction exudes confidence and implied credentialing. With the development of online reviews, practices are now open to the public display of both positive and negative patient feedback. The word of mouth reputation of a medical practice is now influenced by thousands of websites housing user generated reviews, blog entries, chat rooms and fan pages. Many practices feel overwhelmed with the inability to control this dialogue. One practice took it upon themselves to outline what not to do in response to this new frontier.

On July 14th, the New York state Attorney General filed charges against a national plastic surgery franchise with an office based in Syracuse, with attempting to fool potential patients by generating their own positive online reviews. Employees of the practice were told to “Put your wig and skirt on and tell them about the great experience you had” and “Friday is going to be a slow day. I need you to devote the day to doing more postings on the web as a satisfied client.”  The practice also created satellite websites that appeared to be independent of the practice and controlled the “chat room” by submitting their own comments.  A settlement was reached by the state of New York to the tune of $300,000 in penalties.

This new manipulation of the web is referred to as “astroturfing”.  Astroturf is the fake grass found in some sports stadiums and “astroturfing” refers to the act of deliberately imitating popular opinion.

Though marketing an elective health care practice in these modern times can seem overwhelming, do your practice a favor and generate positive review the old fashioned way…earn them!

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