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How to Deal With Online Defamation

Between Yelp, Google, Facebook, and various online forums dedicated to providing customer reviews to help consumers make educated choices, medical professionals and clinics are open to very public criticism.

In some cases, the information gained can be valuable for a healthcare business. Patients who complain about treatment from front desk staff or their ability to find parking lets the business know how they can improve in the future.

But when an unhappy patient says that the medical care they received was negligent, inappropriate, or unnecessary, it can have a lasting impact. Readers of those reviews may draw negative conclusions about the professionalism of the provider and/or the business and choose to go elsewhere.

Similarly, providers who are frequently targeted by slander in healthcare reviews may find themselves losing out on professional opportunities.

Learning how to deal with slander can help you to protect your professional reputation and reverse the damage done to your practice or clinic online due to negative reviews and patient complaints.

Can I Respond Online to Defaming Claims Made by Patients in Reviews?

To a degree, but not in detail. HIPAA laws prohibit medical providers from divulging the details of patient medical care or conditions even if the patient shares details about their own diagnosis and care themselves. Whether or not the details they share are correct doesn’t matter when it comes to the doctor’s ability to respond and clear up any misunderstanding.

There are a couple of ways to respond in a way that can begin to repair the harm done rather than making the situation worse.

If the complaint is about a nonmedical issue (such as, “My call wasn’t returned quickly,” or “I had to wait an hour even though I had an appointment.”) you may be able to respond with a generalized statement like, “We are sorry to hear that you had a negative experience. Please contact our office so we can further discuss the issue.”

If the complaint is medical in nature, you cannot respond online without violating HIPAA laws.

How Do I Handle Online Defamation and Stop the Harm to My Practice and Reputation?

There are a number of possible paths to get the review removed from the site in order to mitigate harm.

First, you reach out to the platform where the review is being hosted and ask them to remove it based on defamation laws. This may or may not yield the desired result. Next, you can seek legal remedy, perhaps sending a cease-and-desist letter to the person who wrote the review and tell them to take it down.

If that doesn’t work, you can take the case to court if you can prove that what the person is saying is incorrect, or that care or lack thereof was a medically valid decision. You may or may not need to prove damages to be successful.

Contact Florida Healthcare Law Firm today to learn more about the legal recourse available to you in the event of online defamation.