negative online reviews Archives - The Wealthy Dentist

Dental Marketing Gone Bad: Dentist Threatens Lawsuit for Negative Review

Dental Marketing Gone Bad: Dentist Threatens Lawsuit for Negative ReviewThe most costly dental marketing mistake could be threatening to sue your dental patients.  And once again, a dentist is making front-page news with her challenge against a negative dental review on Yelp.

ABC News is reporting that Stacy Makhnevich, DDS, threatened to sue dental patient Robert Allen Lee for posting critical comments about Dr. Makhnevich on Yelp and DoctorBase.

According to ABC News the problem began in 2010, when Robert Lee went into Dr. Makhnevich’s office for a scheduled dentist’s appointment. Lee claims he was in excruciating pain when he was told he had to sign a Mutual Agreement to Maintain Privacy form, before being treated. The privacy form required that Lee agree not to publish any commentary or write anything disparaging about his experience online.

Lee further states that although he was hesitant to sign this form, he was desperate to receive treatment and gave in to agreeing to sign the form.

Lee became unhappy when there was a mishap with billing his insurance company and he couldn’t get Dr. Makhnevich’s office to rectify the situation to his satisfaction, Lee wrote negative reviews about Dr. Makhnevich and her practice on Yelp and DoctorBase.

Both ABC News and Public Citizen are reporting that Makhnevich sent a letter to Lee demanding that he delete the negative posts, warning him that he violated the agreement he signed and threatened to sue him for breach of contract. Dr. Makhnevich also contacted the review sites and asked for Lee’s negative comments to be removed.

Both Yelp.com and DoctorBase refused to take down the negative reviews, but Makhneich reportedly claimed that a copyright clause gave her ownership of the negative comments. She then went on to send Lee an invoice for $100 for each day the negative remarks remained online.

Lee has now taken legal action against the doctor by filing a lawsuit in the US District Court of the Southern District of New York, accusing Stacy Makhnevich, DDS, of violating his rights as a patient by threatening him with a lawsuit for posting negative comments online.

As we have reported here on The Wealthy Dentist in the past, dentists have not been successful in court when suing patients directly for their negative online reviews. Recently in California a dentist who sued a patient now has to pay $80,000 in legal fees, not just to the patient who posted the review, but also to Yelp itself.

In the article, Dental Marketing: A Guide for Avoiding Negative Online Reviews, The Wealthy Dentist has offered dentists advice on how to handle a negative online review — and threatening to sue the patient was not listed as a viable dental marketing option.

What are your thoughts on negative online reviews and the sites that allow them?

For more on this story see: Dentist Threatens to Sue Patient for Negative Yelp Review and Doc Sued Over Attempts to Prohibit Patients From Writing Online Reviews.

Dentists Feel Online Reviews Are Extortion to Defend Reputation

Dentists Feel Online Reviews Are Extortion to Defend ReputationNegative online reviews have made headlines in the past few weeks with patients suing doctors and doctors suing Google.

It’s a hot topic among dentists who feel they have little recourse when an unflattering review is posted on sites like Yelp or DoctorBase.

The Wealthy Dentist conducted a survey asking dentists if they have experienced a negative online review.

66% of the dentist respondents answered yes to receiving a negative review with half of those experiencing a bad review more than once.

34% said they have not yet received a negative online review.

Here’s what dentists had to say about negative online reviews —

“It has become extortion to defend your reputation on line. It is too easy for your competitors to place negative postings about you.” (California dentist)

“I think this can be very detrimental to a practice.” (North Carolina dentist)

“They should not be anonymous. It wouldn’t take much for me to post negative reviews of my colleagues either representing myself as a patient, and I don’t know whether or not they have done such a thing. A completely anonymous person could completely irreparably ruin someones career with a negative post quite easily. People are extremely upset, impatient and oftentimes unrealistic these days so it could be very easy to unintentionally “tick someone off” while attempting to do the best for them. I anesthetized a gentleman yesterday who was in a great deal of pain so he could hear and understand that I could not extract his badly impacted wisdom tooth. After carefully explaining it to him after he visibly felt better, he asked “can’t you just yank it out?” This happens quite often, so if someone is going to post something negative they should put on their big boy pants and own up to it. Apparently I have someone floating around out there faceless that I will never be able to engage in any kind of problem solving.” (Florida dentist)

“I simply do not see how first amendment rights trump was is obviously extortion via slander. That is why we have small claims courts. If someone wants their money back for what was perceived as poor service, utilize the justice system. These online review websites allow the individual to be judge, jury, and executioner without fear of rebuke. Why someone would want to intentionally harm a doctor and “put them out of business” is beyond me. You think it is funny or unfortunate until it happens to you. I never in a million years would have thought being moral, ethical and always doing the right thing would bring me 2 negative reviews: one of them for telling the patient the truth and returning her money. There needs to be legislation against this. We need to act as a profession before the profession is completely destroyed.” (Suburban orthodontist)

“They are nothing more then gossips, and should be treated a such. The loyal patients, the ‘Last of the Mohicans,’ would never compromise the good name of their doctor.” (Illinois dentist)

“It’s BS because you can’t argue your case without revealing confidential patient information.” (Georgia dentist)

YELP seems to play favorites with businesses. They called me to see if I wanted to advertise. After saying no, 10 of the 12 reviews were hidden from the public. Coincidental? You decide. All 10 of these reviews were 4 and 5 stars (out of 5).” (California dentist)

“I have new patients sign a paper that they need your permission to write anything about you.” (General dentist)

“I do not like them because it is very hard to rebuke.” (Florida dentist)

“There should be some way to control this. Patients can easily post a negative review simply because you take them to collections.” (Pennsylvania dentist)

“They’re a bugger and they can’t be removed…only buried…that costs $$.” (General dentist)

“I think we should be able to see who it was who gave us the negative review and have an option to deal with the situation and have the review removed.” (Utah dentist)

“I am not too concerned by an occasional bad contact. I try to make it an opportunity to get people to call or come into the office.” (Texas dentist)

“I hate the anonymity!” (Urban orthodontist)

We also asked dentists if they answered yes to receiving a negative online review, how they handled the situation. Here’s what they said —

“I replied to it, but so far it has not be removed.” (General dentist)

“I posted a very positive response. However, I found out recently there are HIPAA issues I did not even think about in the response that I could be sued for.” (Suburban orthodontist)

“The site it appeared on allowed you to write a rebuttal. I invited people concerned by what they read to call or come by the office to discuss their concerns, meet the office team and tour the facility.” (Texas dentist)

“I added explanation to it.” (California dentist)

“I responded to patient’s review online. Patient responded and 1 star was upgraded to 3 stars. I refunded money on dissatisfied service.” (California dentist)

“I just got it. I have not yet responded. She only visited my office two times and gave me all A’s initially, but changed them 10 months later for no reason that I am aware of. Got some recommendations?” (Florida dentist)

“I didn’t know about until about 8 months later so decided to ignore it at that point.” (General dentist)

“I consulted with an attorney and wanted to claim a defamation of character lawsuit. My attorney advised me that it was not worth the effort to fight. The negative postings were on Yelp. There were two negative “Yelps” posted by two different persons, but it is fairly obvious that it is the same person posting the negative Yelp. In the end, I am doing nothing against these two negative Yelps.” (California dentist)

“I responded to the review. The person sent me an email saying a filling had fallen out — one that was done 3 months earlier at another DDS. I was out of town. Apparently this person expected me to be there for them. Not even a patient of record? (California dentist)

“I’ve ignored it. The review was so obviously not about me but a different dentist instead. I did write to the website requesting it be removed but did not receive a response. Instead I asked people to post favorable reviews about me to balance it out.” (New York dentist)

“We asked our best patients to go in and review us which sent that one bad review to the bottom of the list.” (Utah dentist)

“It was false and posted on Yelp. I called and requested it be removed. I even threatened legal action but to no avail. (General dentist)

What are your thoughts on negative online reviews? How would you handle them?

Warning: How Negative Dental Marketing Works

How Negative Dental Marketing WorksTalk about the wrong kind of dental marketing!

Imagine coming into your dental practice one morning to discover that a Hepititius warning about your office had been distributed to your dental patients by your local health services office?

This is exactly what happened to dentist Derek Nordstrom of Edmonton Canada, who knew nothing of the Hepititius complaint.

Apparently, a recorded voice message from Alberta Health Services was calling Dr. Norstrom’s patients to advise them that one of his staff members had hepatitis C, and recommended the patients be tested.

Upon being notified by one of his patients, Dr. Nordstrom cancelled all of his dental appointments and spent the day making phone calls to the Alberta Dental Association and various other health agencies in an attempt to get to the bottom of the complaint.

The only problem was that none of Dr. Norstrom’s staff were sick.

Okay, maybe that wasn’t the only problem…

As if the health complaint wasn’t enough, Nordstrom’s receptionist then discovered websites attacking the dentist and his brother Patrick — also a dentist. According to The Edmonton Journal, one site — nordstromdentist.com — included photos of Dr. Nordstrom alongside anonymous claims of negligent procedures, false billing and even dead ants on his dental chair. The site also included a comment about an Alberta Health Services call about hepatitis C at Nordstrom’s clinic.

Talk about a dental marketing nightmare!

Nordstrom’s lawyer sent notice to the domain registry of the websites attacking the doctor and the sites were immediately suspended.

The bigger question looms as to how someone hacked the 4,000 active patient phone records of Dr. Nordstrom to relay the Hepatitis warning and who is out to get this doctor … and why.

An investigation into the phone messages and malicious websites is moving forward.

Nordstrom told the Edinton Journal that he isn’t sure who’s behind the calls, but finds it troubling someone would raise the question of serious illness to try to discredit him.

“It’s just a sick joke,” Nordstrom said of the hoax. “They’re just trying to hurt me.”

So far Dr. Nordstrom seems to be handling the situation well. I would strongly recommend a very aggressive PR campaign rebutting each accusation separately. While over the years I’ve seen everything from ex-spouse’s fire booming offices to disgruntled employee’s falsely reporting sexual harassment, this particular attack has all the earmarks of an inside job with the help of a professional and enraged computer hacker.

Read more: Hepatitis Claim Against Wainwright Dentist a Hoax, RCMP Say

Dentists: Fake Negative Online Review Nets Business Owner 150K

Dentists: Fake Negative Online Review Nets Business Owner 150KOver the past three years The Wealthy Dentist has covered stories regarding negative online reviews and how dentists should handle them as part of an overall dental marketing strategy.

We’ve agreed that no one should be allowed to post an anonymous reviews against a dentist, because the costs to a dental practice can be high, and the dentist has little hope of investigating the circumstances to turn the situation around.

Not to mention the real possibility that the dentist might be dealing with an anonymous derogatory review that is actually fake.

The best a dentist could do was soften the impact of the negative review online is by responding with positive attributes about his or her dental practice. Any attempt to sue over a negative review always seemed to favor the poster of the review — not the recipient.

But it seems the courts are finally starting to take notice.

Recently, the Missouri Court of Appeals upheld a $150,000 putative damage reward to a plaintiff for defamation caused by 3 fake online reviews.

In 1999, Peter Mitchell and Michael Hosto co-founded a property damage restoration company. Their restoration business was so successful that in 2003 they created BoardUp, Inc., a lead generation service for restoration companies covering five area codes that encompassed significant portions of central and eastern Missouri and the southwestern portion of Illinois.

The partners successfully ran the companies for 4 years until a deterioration in their relationship and the commencement of litigation forced Mitchell and Hosto to dissolve their business associations by entering into a Settlement Agreement in 2007. As a result of the agreement Hosto ended up with BoardUp and Mitchell ended up with the restoration company.

But Hosto was apparently not happy with how the settlement came down.

Hosto went online and posted 3 fake negative reviews about Mitchell and his restoration work. According to court records the first two reviews were posted on March 31, 2008, on Google and Yahoo, respectively. In those fabricated reviews, Hosto used the names of prior customers of the restoration company to create detailed accounting of dealings with Mitchell that encouraged potential customers to avoid contracting with the company.

Here are 2 of the fake reviews:

1. 1st Review on Google (there were 2) –
Grade: F. Dealing with these people was the single biggest mistake I have ever made in my whole life. I[t] was a miserable experience and the job was done so poorly we decided to sell the house. They were great salesman [sic] but their workman [sic] were idiots and the owner was not willing to help in any way. I was so happy just to get them out of my life I paid them much more than I should have because their law firm threatened to lien my house if I disagree[d] with any part of their bill. All I can say is if they show up in your front yard in the middle of the night after your house catchs [sic] on fire, RUN! Do yourself a favor and call your insurance company and get a referal [sic] for legitimate business people.

2. Review on Yahoo –
They were a pain in the neck when I least needed one! Like the other guy [,] The Fire Works Restoration Company showed up in the middle of the night while the firemen where [sic] still putting out the fire. Their emergency board up guys were great. I liked them so much I decided maybe they weren’t so bad when a salesman from the Fire Works Restoration Company showed up the next day. Then they offered to do a “Free Estimate.” So [F]ire [W]orks was a lot higher than the other company. [T]hey got into a long drawn out fight about 1) the cost to remove the water and 2) the cost to dry out the house and 3) the cost to rebuild the house and 4) the cost to clean our stuff. The whole thing turned out to be such a nightmare that I figured it was just easier to deal with the insurance company contractor (the one these guys told me was gonna rip me off!!!!). [S]o when I told them I was not going with them then they sent me a bill even bigger than the first that the insurance company already said they didn’t want to pay. [T]he [F]ire [W]orks guy said it was a “supplement” and the first bill was not complete. [T]hey wanted an additional $1,700 more than the first bill (which was already too high!!!). Moral of the story–––people that seem nice usually are nice but not always.

As soon as Mitchell discovered the negative reviews, he initiated a “John Doe” lawsuit to ascertain the identity of the poster of the online reviews. Yahoo identified Mitchell’s ex-partner, Hosto as the person who posted the negative review on its website. Ultimately Hosto emailed Mitchell admitting that he had posted the negative reviews. Mitchell then brought a defamation suit against both Hosto personally and his company, BoardUp. In response, Hosto filed a counterclaim alleging defamation against Mitchell.

A jury agreed with Mitchell in his personal defamation claim against Hosto and only awarded him $1.00 in actual damages, but awarded him $150,000 in punitive damages. In addition, the jury rejected both Mitchell’s defamation claim against BoardUp and Hosto’s counterclaim against Mitchell.

At first review it might be hard to understand why the jury only awarded Mitchell $1.00 in actual damages, but this may be because it is difficult to prove that a potential customer who Mitchell has never done business with actually decided not to employ the services of his company based on a negative online review.

But the $150,000 in punitive damages does send the message that online posters are responsible for the negative reviews they leave online.

In a research study by Cone, Inc., they found that 80% of consumers have changed their mind about purchases based on negative information that they found online and 87% claimed that positive reviews reinforce their purchasing decisions.

In the future a dentist may very well be able to prove that his or her dental practice was adversely affected by a false negative review and will receive a more sizable actual damages amount.

Have you ever experienced a fake negative online review? How did you handle it?

For help in handling negative online reviews, see The Wealthy Dentist’s dental marketing article, Dental Marketing: A Guide for Avoiding Negative Online Reviews

Dentist Review Websites: Get Used to It

Dentist Review Websites: Get Used to ItLast week we told you about the latest controversy on the consumer review website Yelp: a California dentist who’s suing because of a negative review.

It’s easy to see why the dentist was frustrated by an unflattering and inaccurate review. But she’s received lots of bad press from free-speech advocates for her lawsuit.

It doesn’t seem like legal action is necessarily the best way to deal with a bad review.

There’s no turning back the clock. A pre-Internet mentality is no longer relevant. Like it or not, customer review websites do exist, and they’re only getting more popular.

“Litigants have this pre-Internet mentality where they think they can control messages about themselves in public,” Matt Zimmerman, senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, recently told the SF Weekly. “But the online community will see this as a slap in the face and retaliate. … It blows up in [the litigant’s] face.”

Managing your reputation online

Even if you’ve never submitted your business information anywhere, chances are excellent that you’re already listed with one or more of these websites. You can find out what patients are saying about you by searching for your name and geographic area on any of these sites.

Most of these sites allow business owners a degree of control over their listings. A good listing should include your name, dental practice name, address, phone number, hours, and treatment specialties. You should correct any inaccurate information.

Uploading photos to your listing is also a great way to give prospective patients more insight into your practice. A photo of the lobby offers a sense of ambiance, while a storefront photo can make it easier for new patients to find your location.

What do you do about a bad review?

Well, you can sue, but that won’t necessarily solve the problem, and you could end up getting a lot of bad press.

Or you can decide not to worry about it. This is certainly the easiest thing to do! Don’t waste too much brainpower on one unhappy customer who wants to complain publicly.

But some business owners just can’t ignore the one-star reviews. either because they’re personally upset or because they feel it will hurt their business.

Reaching out to the owners of the review website will not always be effective. Yelp, for example, will not remove a review unless it violates their terms of service. Moreover, the site does not permit business owners to directly respond to any reviews, comments or allegations.

The most effective strategy for removing a bad review seems to be to convince the reviewer to change their rating. While this is great for unhappy customers, it’s frustrating to business owners.

“The power for [Yelpers] to put a bad remark can crush us,” said a San Francisco florist in an interview with the SF Weekly. “So we have to do 10 steps above everything. We literally overdo customer service.”

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