In this comprehensive article and guide, we’re going to walk you through how to remove fake and negative reviews from Healthgrades.com, their community and review guidelines, how online defamation and libelous posts stand to affect your medical practice and reputation, how not to respond to negative and fake online reviews, and more!
- To remove fake and negative doctor and medical professional reviews from Healthgrades.com, we recommend first acquainting yourself with Healthgrades’ Community and Review Guidelines to understand the types of content prohibited on their platform. After determining if a review or piece of content violates Healthgrades.com’s standards, you can report the negative and defamatory review/content by:
- Flagging a review and entering the reason why you think it violates Healthgrades’ Community and Review Guidelines,
- Contacting their customer service team directly via an online form or contact email,
- Contacting an experienced Internet defamation removal attorney, or
- Sending a cease and desist letter to the review (if their identity is known).
- When confronting fake, negative, and defamatory reviews and posts on Healthgrades.com, doctors and physicians should proceed with caution. At its very simplest, we generally recommend against responding to malicious and negative online reviews. However, if it’s imperative that you do so, keep the following in mind.
- Take note of your confidentiality obligations under HIPAA,
- Do not respond to the review in an emotional tone,
- Use it as a chance to spin the narrative by addressing past positive reviews.
Online Defamation Removal Tip: Defamation per se is a legal doctrine and principle which recognizes specific types of statements as so inherently inflammatory and defamatory, that a defamation plaintiff need not prove the fourth element of a defamation claim – damages. Most U.S. states recognize four types of statements as “per se” communications: (1) statements charging a person with having committed a crime, (2) statements imputing unchastity upon a woman, (3) statements imputing a loathsome disease upon a person (ex. STD), and (4) statements which injure a person in their work, profession, or trade.
Have you or your medical practice been the victim of libelous and fake reviews on Healthgrades.com? Reach out to the nationally recognized online defamation removal lawyers of Minc Law ASAP to discuss your legal options.
In our tenure as experienced Internet defamation removal attorneys, we’ve built up an arsenal of legal tactics to secure cost-effective and painless online defamation removals. We’ve removed over 25,000 pieces of libelous content and websites in our tenure, and litigated in over 22 states and 3 countries, so rest assured when working with us that you’re in good hands. And, we boast a nearly 100% online defamation removal rate!
We also conduct certain defamation removals for a flat, reasonable fee, which you can find over at our ‘Services’ page.
We’re here to fight for your reputation.
The Facts: What is Healthgrades.com?
Founded in 1998, Healthgrades.com is a popular online website and platform providing in-depth reports, reviews, and information about physicians, health care providers, and hospitals. In Healthgrades twenty-plus year tenure, they have amassed reviews and information on over three million health care providers across the U.S. and solidified themselves at the forefront of online medical information and reviews. According to their website, they are the very first comprehensive review, rating, and comparison database for physicians and health care providers.
According to a comScore report, Healthgrades received roughly 17 million unique website visitors per month back in January 2014, making it one of the top 50 most trafficked health and medical-focused websites on the Internet. A 2014 study by HitConsultant also found Healthgrades to be the number two go-to website for online physician reviews – only second to Yelp.
Healthgrades.com’s comprehensive medical database enables users to search for physicians based on specific criteria, such as their experience or particular area of medicine. Healthgrades’ physician ratings also take into account a physician’s location and overall patient satisfaction.
Physicians are reviewed and rated on a five star scale, determined by “multivariate logistic regressions” of past medical consultations and outcomes. Additionally, Healthgrades employs several “best of” and “excellence” lists, covering 26 core areas and practices, all in furtherance of assisting and information patients about the best location or hospital to be treated at.
Besides doctors and health care providers, Healthgrades also tackles hospitals, rating and evaluating them based on total in-house complications and risk adjusted mortality – with the bulk of hospital rating reports drawing from Medicare claim data. Healthgrades also offers consulting services to 350-plus hospitals across the United States, to help improve quality of care and expand programmatic growth ventures and opportunities.
Curious about removing negative and false online reports and reviews from Healthgrades.com? Let’s take a look.
Defamation Law Fact: Persons who commit defamation may commonly be referred to as: (1) libelers – for written defamation (2) slanderers – for spoken defamation (3) defamers – the general term for parties who commit defamation and (4) famacide – a somewhat archaic term referring to a party who “destroys one’s reputation. Defamation may also be called: character assassination, vilification, traducement, and disparagement.
How to Remove Fake & Negative Reviews From Healthgrades.com
False and defamatory reviews, posts, and information on Healthgrades.com stands to carry grave effects for both you and your medical practice, so it’s important to stay proactive towards monitoring your practice’s online reputation and presence.
In this section, we’re going to walk you through Healthgrades.com’s ‘Community and Review Guidelines,’ the available channels Healthgrades offers to remove libelous and negative reviews, and several other methods to remove fake and negative reviews from Healthgrades.com.
Let’s first take a look at the framework Healthgrades.com has laid out for online reviews and posts.
Healthgrades’ Community & Review Guidelines
Healthgrades’ Community and Review Guidelines emphasizes their commitment towards upholding reviews with integrity and authenticity. Specifically, their Community and Review Guidelines page reads, “Attempting to submit false, misleading or inflammatory content is strictly prohibited. Before a review is published to our site, it must pass all verification steps and rules that govern content.”
So, what exactly is the criteria for constructive and valid content/reviews that pass muster on Healthgrades.com?
Healthgrades urges posters and reviewers to consider the following:
- Refrain from posting libelous, defamatory, harassing, threatening, or inflammatory content,
- Don’t use profanity, obscenities, or discriminate against others based on race, nationality, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, disability, or age,
- Don’t post lewd or obscene content,
- Don’t post deceptive, fraudulent, or misleading content,
- Refrain from posting content that contains personally identifiable information (ex. Phone numbers, email addresses, etc…),
- Don’t post links to your personal website,
- Don’t impersonate other people or organizations,
- Refrain from lodging malicious personal attacks against users and healthcare providers,
- Don’t post promotional material that endorses specific companies or brands,
- Don’t post highly confidential information pertaining to legal matters.
Now that we’ve gone through what Healthgrades has deemed to be acceptable content, let’s turn to how to report negative and defamatory reviews via the Healthgrades platform.
How to Report Negative & Defamatory Reviews on Healthgrades.com
To report abuse and malicious/negative reviews which violate Healthgrades.com’s Community and Review Guidelines, there’s several channels a user may go through.
First, in the right hand corner of every medical and physician review, users are able to “Flag” the libelous or false comment in question. After doing so, they will be prompted to enter a reason for their flagging of the content and provide their email. The flagged comment will then be reviewed by Healthgrades’ staff to ensure it complies with their standards.
Secondly, should a user disagree with the review or rating given, they may utilize the “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” icon provided in the bottom left corner of each review.
Two Methods to Remove False & Negative Reviews From Healthgrades.com
Reporting a libelous or negative review to Healthgrades.com won’t always lead to your intended result – it’s complete removal and de-indexing from Internet search results. Consumer Affairs, a consumer advocacy website and online bulletin board for users to post complaints and reviews about various companies, services, products, and websites, has over 250 consumer reviews and complaints posted about Healthgrades.com.
When sorting through the 250-plus reviews and complaints, it becomes evident that removing false, negative, and libelous reviews from Healthgrades.com is no simple task. One post reads:
“I tried three times to submit a request to Healthgrades through their “Contact Us” online form that a patient review be removed from my profile not because it is critical but because it is inappropriate and inaccurate. It was not written by my (adult) patient but by his mother…I have received no response from Healthgrades.”
Below are two alternative methods to contacting Healthgrades.com directly for removing false and negative doctor reviews from their website.
Work With an Experienced Internet Defamation Removal Attorney
Working with an experienced online defamation removal lawyer is strongly recommended when confronting false and negative doctor reviews on Healthgrades.com. Not only will working with one save time, it will also help protect against future headache and hassle.
Defamation removal attorneys have built up a series of legal tactics in their careers to effectively and swiftly remove false and negative online reviews/ratings, and have the ability/tools to identify malicious online reviewers and commenters.
If you and your medical practice has been defamed or falsely attacked on Healthgrades.com, contact the Cleveland-based defamation removal lawyers of Minc Law today to schedule your free, initial no-obligation defamation consultation. You can schedule a meeting online, or call us at (216) 373-7706.
Send a Cease & Desist Letter to the Reviewer
Sending a cease and desist letter to the online reviewer or commenter is an option, if you actually know who posted the libelous and negative review. However, sending cease and desist letters should be approached with caution, as it could ultimately have an adverse effect and lead to the further distribution and dissemination of online defamation and other attacks.
Before sending a cease and desist letter, we recommend reaching out to an experienced online defamation removal attorney to explore whether this is the best option, as all Internet defamation situations are unique. We also recommend considering the defendant’s background and how they might react after being sent a cease and desist. Consider whether they have a history of retaliating, the potential audiences they might ultimately have access to, and their financial resources.
Libel Removal Tip: Understand that libel and slander often have different statutes of limitations – the amount of time for a party to initiate their claim before it expires. As slander concerns itself with a spoken statement, preservation of evidence is often much harder (as it is fleeting) and slander claims generally have shorter statutes of limitations (typically 1 year). We recommend acquainting yourself with your state’s respective defamation statute of limitations in order to prevent having your claim barred or subsequently dismissed.
Now, let’s turn to how Healthgrades.com, one of the largest online communities and platforms for medical reviews and reports, stands to negatively affect your medical or dental practice’s future and bottom line.
Why Healthgrades Poses a Serious Threat to Your Medical Practice
The reality of online reviews and information is that most patients choose to use online reviews prior to choosing a medical professional or physician. If roughly 93% of consumers are influenced by online reviews about their next product purchase, why wouldn’t they turn to the Internet and online review platforms for their medical or dental needs?
In today’s day and age, even a slight drop in your online rating score could have significant impacts on your practice, customer-base, and overall bottom line. A 2016 Harvard University case study of Yelp.com found that a one-star increase in a business or services Yelp rating ultimately lead to a 5-9% increase in overall revenue. Furthermore, Podium, a customer interaction and online review management website, found that a 3.3 star rating out of five is the bare minimum rating for a business that consumers would engage with. Simply put, reviews and ratings matter.
And, with Healthgrades.com only second to Yelp in the world of medical and physician reviews/ratings, serious damage can be done should you fail to take your medical practice’s online reputation seriously.
Let’s take a look at three fundamental reasons why Healthgrades.com reviews and ratings pose a serious threat to your medical practice’s reputation and future.
Reliability of Healthgrades.com Doctor Reviews & Ratings
Many medical experts have expressed concern over the reliability of Healthgrades.com’s five star ratings system, mainly due their lack of transparency and the methodology/algorithm behind the reviews.
Most notably, Healthgrades.com reviews and “best of” lists have drawn criticism for large discrepancies in statistics cited between authoritative medical bodies and organizations and Healthgrades.com. For example, information published in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons (2010) found significantly different risk-adjusted mortality rates between a US News and World Report and Healthgrades.com’s lists of “Best Hospitals.” A similar study in the following year published in the Archives of Surgery affirmed the above discrepancies, citing substantive issues and flaws in the assessment and evaluation of mortality rates following specific procedures.
Additionally, there have been reported instances of false physician disciplinary records and information being posted on Healthgrades.com. A 2016 Consumer Reports’ article also found an alarming omission of information and disciplinary actions on Healthgrades.com, ultimately finding Healthgrades failed to include 18 malpractice suits against one physician.
So, exactly how reliable are Healthgrades reviews and ratings and are they reliable at all?
Unfortunately, there’s a lot to be desired when it comes to the reliability of reviews and ratings on Healthgrades.com. Any website which amasses such status and traffic in today’s online age is bound to run into monitoring, vetting, and informational issues. However, the sheer size of their traffic and user-base doesn’t account for the reasons behind significant discrepancies in cited statistics by Healthgrades.com in “best of” and “excellence” lists, so we recommend approaching those with caution and skepticism.
Anonymous Online User Reviews & Comments
In June 2017, an anonymous poster on Healthgrades left a negative review of Lynne Perry-Bottinger, MD, a New York-based cardiologist. The review read, “Dr. Bottinger is one of the most unprofessional, ignorant, healthcare providers I have had the misfortune of dealing with. I have been in the medical profession 20 years, and thankfully never have encountered the like [sic] of her. The only reason for 1 star is to satisfy the system. Did not deserve that.”
Perry-Bottinger subsequently brought suit, alleging libel, unfair competition, tortious interference, and false advertising, and demanded the anonymous poster ultimately be prevented from publishing disparaging comments about Perry-Bottinger, remove the previous review, and pay $1 million in damages. Perry-Pottinger sought discovery of the defendant’s identity, however Healthgrades.com, who wasn’t named in the suit, reportedly refused to reveal the poster’s personal information without a subpoena.
Such subpoena requirement is quite common in today’s online defamation landscape, making the identification of anonymous posters/reviewers an arduous and difficult process. While anonymous speech is a protected and fundamental right in the United States, it does leave much to be desired when it comes to identifying online defamers and malicious posters. After all, why wouldn’t a poster or review choose to push a malicious or false agenda if they knew the chances of legal recourse and identification were slim?
Incomplete Picture of Hospital Quality
As noted above, in Healthgrades.com’s assessment of hospitals, it ranks and evaluates them based on in-hospital issues and complications and risk adjusted mortality rate. The analysis is extrapolated from roughly 40 million Medicare discharges spanning over the past three years and compiled mainly from Medicare claim data.
Several outspoken critics of Healthgrades.com have cited such claim data is insufficient to accurately determine a hospitals quality of care and that it’s a dangerous slope to go down solely basing ratings off of Medicare claims. Instead, critics argue true conclusions and findings should be based on information taken from medical records.
It’s important to approach all Healthgrades.com reviews and reports with a healthy amount of skepticism, and seek out official governmental and administrative medical and statistical reports when available.
Defamation Law Fact: Some of the most common defenses to online defamation claims include: (1) Opinion – if a statement cannot be independently verified as true or false, then there may be potential for a defense of opinion, (2) Truth – truthful statements are not actionable under U.S. defamation and libel law, (3) Privilege – where a party is authorized to do something or communicate a specific type of statement (even if defamatory) by law, (4) Consent – if a party consents to a defamatory publication about themselves, they cannot later revoke such consent and bring a defamation action.
How Not to Respond to Negative Medical Reviews Online
The general rule of thumb is to refrain from responding to negative and false online reviews, as it could ultimately stand to worsen the situation and lead to the further spread of malicious and false attacks. However, if you do decide to respond to libelous and false online doctor and medical reviews on Healthgrades.com (and other consumer reporting and review websites), it should be approached with a calculated and comprehensive end goal in mind due to the potential legal complications associated with divulging and discussing private information.
In this section, we’re going to walk you through how to best respond to negative and false online reviews/comments should you determine it’s the best course of action.
Understand Confidentiality Obligations Under HIPAA
Unlike small businesses and companies, doctors and healthcare professionals are held to a specific legal standard of confidentiality under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). HIPAA was drafted to standardize and modernize the free-flow of healthcare and medical information and tackle how personally identifiable information is dealt with and maintained by healthcare providers.
For example, Title II of HIPAA governs the policies and procedures surrounding the maintenance of privacy for individuals and prescribes the various offenses related to its dissemination (criminal and civil). Specifically, patient information, including demographic, diagnosis, and treatment data should not be divulged in a response to a review.
Simply put, doctors are handcuffed when it comes responding to online negative and false reviews due to the tight restrictions of what they can and can’t acknowledge.
If you’re looking for guidance on how to respond to medical reviews, check out this expert’s guide posted on the Yelp blog.
Do Not Respond Emotionally
As mentioned above, if you’re a healthcare professional and the victim of a false and malicious online review, it’s important to be strategic and tactful in your response. Do not respond emotionally to the review, as doing so only stands to make the situation worse.
Take time to genuinely reflect on the review, and address any credible arguments made by the poster/reviewer. Show that thought was put into it, and that steps are being taken to address the poor experience (even if the review is false).
Also, bringing up countless other positive reviews you and your practice have received are a great way to refocus the message.
If you’re a doctor or medical professional and have been the victim of libelous reviews and false attacks, we recommend checking out our comprehensive blog post addressing how to handle online defamation. Finally, should you find yourself of unsure about responding to such reviews, we recommend consulting an experienced Internet defamation lawyer to explore your legal and removal options.
Online Defamation Removal Tip: Unsure of how to proceed with the online defamation process? Here’s a quick checklist. (1) Identify the statement in question and narrow its scope, (2) Find all relevant websites and publications where it was published, (3) Jot down the exact search terms that were used to find it, (4) Screenshot the offensive material and have a trusted friend or family member assist with the process, (5) Contact an experienced online defamation attorney.
Work With the Internet Defamation Removal Attorneys of Minc Law Now!
Have you and your medical practice been defamed or falsely reviewed on Healthgrades.com? Reach out to the experienced online defamation removal attorneys of Minc Law today to discuss your legal options. Libelous and fake reviews on Healthgrades.com could ultimately carry grave consequences for you and your practice, so it’s important to act as soon as possible.
At Minc Law, we know the ins and outs of U.S. defamation and libel law, and have worked tirelessly with countless website administrator, online content managers, and third-party arbitration firms over the years to secure the swift and effective removal of over 25,000 pieces of content/websites. We’ve also litigated in over 22 states and 3 countries, and boast a nearly 100% online defamation takedown rate.
What are you waiting for? False and negative online reviews are like a wildfire, and the longer you let them sit and embed themselves into the fabric of the Internet (and search results), the more damage it’s going to do to you and your medical practice.
Here’s what you can expect when working with the nationally recognized online defamation removal attorneys of Minc Law:
- Utmost Respect & Courtesy: Online defamation and negative reviews can both be overwhelming and stressful, so know that we’re here to make the removal process as painless as possible. Know that your goals are our goals, and we’re always on your side.
- Open Communication & Dialogue: It’s our goal to keep all of our clients informed, so always know that we’re here to keep you in the loop regarding everything defamation. Some defamation removal attorneys go missing once the defamation takedown process has begun. Not us. We pride ourselves on open lines of communication and dialogue.
- Businesses & Review Sites Respond to Us: As noted above, we’ve secured the effective removal of over 25,000 websites and pieces of libelous/false content, so rest assured you’re in good hands when working with the Cleveland-based defamation attorneys of Minc Law. Businesses and review websites respond to Minc Law!
Let’s get started with your online defamation takedown today.