Dentists: Can Copyright Law Protect You from Negative Online Reviews?

dentists and copyright lawOnline dental reviews can be a problem for dentists when negative reviews appear, especially when they feel the review is possibly retaliatory or bogus.

A few thousand doctors have taken matters into their own hands by working with a company called Medical Justice, that created a way to use copyright law to go after negative online reviews.

For about $100.00 a month, Medical Justice protects its doctors by going to online review sites and demanding any bad reviews be removed due to “a breach of copyright.” The company instructs doctors to have their patients sign contracts that assign away the copyright in any future review the patient might be compelled to write online.

Techland Times reports that Medical Justice claims what they’re doing is not only protecting the doctors from unfair bad press, but also from bogus reviews. “Some sites say, we don’t know if you’re telling truth, and we don’t know if they’re telling the truth — it’s the Internet, so deal with it,” contends Shane Stadler of Medical Justice.

Moco News writes that by having patients assign copyright in any reviews to their doctor, Medical Justice is hoping to help doctors get around Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (an “arcane nuance of cyberlaw,” according to Medical Justice’s website), the law that protects web services from getting sued over content posted by their users.

It is being reported that Yelp has refused to honor a doctor’s take-down notice based on copyright infringement, and another online review website called RateMDs created a “Wall of Shame” to identify doctors who are using the copyright contracts.

Sound unreasonable? Do you think it’s irrational to demand dental patients sign a copyright assignment form when they visit a dentist office?

For more on this story see Doctors Now Using Breach of Copyright to Quash Bad Online Reviews and Can Doctors Use Copyright Law To Get Rid Of Negative Reviews?

Internet Savvy Dental Patients Create Great Opportunities for Dentists

Internet Savvy Dental Patients Create Great Opportunities for DentistsIn this month’s edition of the Economic Journal features a study performed by U.C. Berkeley Professors Michael Anderson and Jeremy Magrude looking at the relationship between online ratings and customers’ purchasing decisions.

The professors studied the effects that positive online reviews had on 300 San Francisco restaurants on

Their research found that restaurants with higher ratings, or that saw an improvement in a star rating were more likely to be busy at peak dining times. This would only stand to reason, but what they found interesting was that if a restaurant’s rating went up by even half of one star, the restaurant saw in improvement in patron visits.

One restaurant saw a review improvement cause their 7 p.m. reservations to sell out for more than a third of the evenings they were open for dinner.  Which meant that many restaurant customers used real-time local search data when deciding where they wanted to eat.

The study points to an ever-increasing fact that more people are using online review sites and the Internet to influence their decisions about where they will spend their money. And if they discover that the online restaurant review was relatable to their experience, then they are more likely to believe subsequent online reviews about other businesses as well, including their local dentist.

A recent German study asked 287 doctors about the Internet’s impact on their practice and their online-connected patients. 80% of the doctor respondents felt that dealing with Internet-informed patients increased their need to be better-informed, Internet savvy doctors as well.

Doctors see that younger patients who access the Internet as part of everything they do in their daily lives are much more involved in their healthcare choices and are generally better informed.

This growing demographic, known as “Generation Y” was born between 1978 and 2000 and places their age in the 12 – 34 range. Their passion for using technology as part of their every waking moment is only going to increase over time as technology advances make this easier and easier to do.

In the past, dental patients gathered all of their information about a local dentist from neighbors, co-workers and Yellow Pages advertisements. They often naturally accepted the idea that their dentist was the best dentist in town — without question.

Now, dental patients can research their local dentist online, explore different dental treatment options, and compare the average cost for those treatments with dentists across the U.S. They can also look up what people are saying about their dentist online — from complete strangers – not just their family and friends and relate that information to the experiences they’ve had with your dental practice.

And as much as some dentists want to resist Internet advances, it is better to accept this ever-increasingly, Internet-savvy next generation and jump into the fray by insuring that you are optimizing all the different social media channels and managing your reputation with online review sites.

I would argue that the main reason dental patients look to the Internet for information is because they are not certain about their decision and are looking for more reliable data. Your dental practice website, your social media presence (especially with Google + Local) and your management of your reputation with online review sites can be the place where they find the information and reassurance they are searching for online.

Don’t leave their decisions to random Internet search results. If patients can go online and find out about their dentist, their symptoms and the information they are searching for from your dental website and various social media channels, then you’ve already developed trust before they pick up the phone to make an appointment.

You’ve made their life easier and you’ve let them know that you are a dentist who is up to date on the latest dental treatments and you are reaching out to where they are hanging out to let them know that you are the best dentist in town.

Economists predict that the availability of healthcare information online will actually cause people to reach out and schedule more health maintenance appointments, which should actually increase the demand for healthcare providers such as dentists.

As this demand continues to grow, dentists should be prudent in their engagement with patients online, providing them with the information they are seeking and establishing that doctor-patient relationship before they ever step into your waiting room.

Dental Marketing: How Are Positive Yelp Reviews Different From Testimonials?

Dental Marketing: How Are Positive Yelp Reviews Different From Testimonials?Ever since online review sites have become popular on the Internet, business owners and dentists alike have been trying to figure out a way to deal with the public’s ability to post negative reviews online and instantly jeopardize the dentist’s business reputation.

Often supposed customers are allowed to post reviews in which they don’t disclose their real names or the type of relationship they’ve had with the business and business owner they’re reviewing.

The Wealthy Dentist has reported on these types of reviews where the negative posts were initiated by an ex-girlfriend or an ex-business partner with an axe to grind against a dentist.

This has called into question the validity of online reviews and how much the public should trust them.

Recently members of a Southern California business networking group, South Bay BNI, came under investigation by Yelp for running a “review-swapping ring” where group members attempted to boost their Yelp ratings by posting positive reviews about each other’s businesses, as reported by the LA Times.

The problem was that BNI members were a little over-zealous in their efforts.

They hosted a chapter contest in which members scored points and received prizes for publishing positive reviews about each other on Yelp.

But they didn’t stop there.

They allegedly moved on to actively asking for positive Yelp reviews on Facebook and LinkedIn, resulting in some members receiving as many as fifteen five-star reviews.

David Lee, Yelp’s user operations manager told the LA Times, “This was a sophisticated effort to bolster the reputation of members of this business networking group through five-star reviews. Reviews that have a bias lead to a poor consumer experience.”

Members of South Bay BNI like Rosanna Savone defended the BNI reviews as legitimate by telling the Times, “We didn’t think we were violating any guidelines. There was no secret mission to outsmart Yelp.”

The BNI philosophy is that “Giver’s Gain.”  Each BNI member commits to reaching out to use fellow member businesses first before patronizing the same type of business outside of the BNI network, in other words, the South Bay BNI members really did use the services of the member businesses they reviewed on Yelp.

Yelp deleted the reviews, but it does bring to light yet another problem with online review sites: what constitutes an “honest” review?

Since reviewers are not required to be their “real selves” on Yelp, negative online reviews are quite often posted by business rivals and people out to hurt one particular business for purely personal reasons. Facebook, on the other hand, does not allow “fake” identities and will shut down an account it deems to be false.

Dentists have been forced to implement ways to counter the risks associated with managing their dental reputations online — especially when it comes to online reviews.

Yelp has often been criticized by business owners for being too quick to bury positive reviews while doing nothing about false negative reviews until attorneys are involved.

It is a long-standing business tradition that when a customer tells a business owner how much they value the service they’ve received or asks what they can do for the business, the customer is asked to provide a testimonial. This is even taught in business marketing classes in college.

So how is it not okay for a dentist to ask a patient offering a testimonial to place their thoughts on Yelp in the form of an online review?

Or, the BNI member who asks a fellow member’s testimonial be put on Yelp in the form of an online review?

Even Yelp itself utilizes testimonials from business owners in its advertising, as seen in this online video in favor of Yelp advertising — 

All the “testimonials” in the above video are “positive reviews” for Yelp advertising — now how is this different from a business owner asking a customer to post a positive review on Yelp?

At the end of the video Yelp doesn’t disclose the relationship it has with these business owners, or how much money they spend advertising with Yelp.

If we are supposed to trust these testimonials because Yelp has provided them to us in their video ad then why can’t we be trusted to judge positive business reviews on Yelp on our own too?

What do you think about asking dental patients to add their positive reviews to Yelp? Do you think it is a violation of Yelp’s policies?

What are your thoughts on online review sites? Do you think that they play fair?

For more on this topic see: Yelp reviews: Can you trust them? Some firms game the system

Dentists Beware: Yelp Results Now Showing in Bing Searches

Yelp Results Now Showing in Bing SearchesJust when dentists thought they had enough of online reviews, now Yelp and Bing are forging an new online search alliance.

This week Microsoft announced that search engine Bing will be featuring content from online review company Yelp, including dental reviews, in its search results.

According to Yelp, Bing search users should begin seeing the Yelp results in search within the next two weeks.

The announcement comes on the heels of a recent comScore report that Google led the U.S. search market in May 2012 with 66.7% of the search market share, followed by Bing with 15.4% and Yahoo! with 13.4%. accounted for 3%, followed by AOL, Inc. with 1.5%.

comScore Report: The U.S. search market in May 2012

17.5 billion searches were conducted, with Google search sites ranking first with 11.7 billion. Bing search sites ranked second with 2.7 billion searches, followed by Yahoo! search sites with 2.3 billion, with 521 million and AOL, Inc. with 268 million.

Bing increased its share of the search market from May of last year and the new partnership with Yelp is an obvious attempt to continue this upward trend.

In the recent blog post, Bing and Yelp Help You Do More with Local Search, Bing writes, “As one of the web’s leading local listing services, Yelp is a great resource that helps connect you with local businesses and restaurants. Scanning reviews from real people can often make the difference between the perfect night out and wishing you had stayed in. At Bing, we’re dedicated to helping you do more, so we are pleased to roll out increased Yelp coverage in Bing search results.

Microsoft keeps pushing support of Bing against Google by reporting that U.S. searchers on Bing are likely to spend 9% more than U.S. users searching with Google.

As search continues to be influenced by social activity on sites like Yelp, Google Plus, YouTube, and Facebook it will be interesting to see if Bing can compete on a larger scale with Google over time.

How do you feel about Yelp reviews showing up when dental patients search for local dentists on Bing?

For more on this see: comScore Releases May 2012 U.S. Search Engine Rankings

Do Negative Online Reviews Really Matter To Dentists?

dentists negative online reviews While the idea of a negative online review strikes fear into the hearts of many dentists, others feel a good number of the negative reviews are bogus.

That’s because some dentists asked negative reviewers to contact them to discuss the matter, and heard nothing — or the dentist knew the alleged incident did not occur in their office.

The Wealthy Dentist decided to conduct a survey to ask dentists if they have experienced a negative online review and how they handled the situation. 64% of dentists responded that they have received a negative online review, with 31% saying they received more than one. Only 36% have not (yet) experienced a negative online review.

The slight majority (33%) received just one negative online review.

Here are some dentist comments:

  • “A staff member was able to find out who posted the review and they weren’t a patient. It was just someone posting negative things about businesses randomly.” (California dentist)
  • “I was listed on Yelp and I tried contacting the patients but they were fictitious or non-responsive.” (Massachusetts dentist)
  • “Not quite sure what to do- the patient hasn’t been to our office in 3-4 years and must have gotten some itch to slam us online.” (Michigan dentist)
  • “These reviews appear to be bogus. I have a small practice and many of the negative items mentioned do not even apply to me. Could be my ex-partner . . . I also wonder if it could be the reputation police.” (General dentist)
  • “Had to respond twice. We suspect the X-wife of my boyfriend! Just replied and asked other patients to do positive testimonials to counteract the negative one. Legal action was too expensive.” (California dentist)
  • “It was not a patient of record and the complaint made no sense, but it was taken down after 2 or 3 years.” (Oral Surgeon)
  • “It was on a neighborhood website. I contacted an attorney and then emailed the web admin and threatened to sue. They took the comments away immediately. I was surprised they did. The comments were completely ridiculous and it wasn’t like I could post photos of the patients’ cavities in retaliation due to HIPAA. I haven’t had any bad reviews on true internet sites like Yelp or Angie’s List or any of the others that I am aware of. I think it essentially gives the 10% (who are never satisfied) the megaphone.” (Georgia dentist)
  • “We tried to contact reviewer — to no avail.” (Florida Dentist)

Read more: Dentists Respond To Negative Online Reviews


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