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Court Rules Online Reviewers Cannot Remain Anonymous: Could Decision Impact Physician Sites?

image_justiceJan 8, 2014  In a decision that could reshape the rules for online consumer reviews, a Virginia court has ruled that the popular website Yelp must turn over the names of seven reviewers who anonymously criticized a prominent local carpet cleaning business. Read full Washington Times article here.

The online review sites Healthgrades, Yelp, and Vitals have become a popular way for patients to research and choose an ophthalmologist. Like it or not, these (and other review) sites have virtually taken the place of the telephone book as the primary vehicle for people finding you. They also can pose a serious public relations risk for your practice since anyone can post practically anything they want – good or bad – about you in seconds and often anonymously. Well, until this ruling. Time will tell if this sticks, but it may be a sign that the subject of a malicious or fictitious review may have recourse through the court system to identify and respond to their accuser, specifically when the content crosses the line that protects free speech (i.e. slander, libel, defamation). Regardless of how this story ultimately plays out, physicians should remain careful when responding to online reviews. See below for a discussion on handling negative reviews.

Recommended Reading:

You’ve Been Yelped: What You Should Know about Responding to Negative Online Reviews

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