The internet: target practice?
This letter refers to “Getting the best out of online reviews”, an article that was in our UK edition only.
›› The suggestions in the article “Getting the best out of online reviews” by Neil Bacon surprised me since they are the exact opposite of what I’d advise. I’m not aware of “powerful benefits” of online reviews. What is possible is that anyone may write anything they like about a doctor. There is no peer editing, there is no restriction, the writer cannot be identified (they might not be who they say they are) and there is no sanction against a derogatory or even malicious review.
Hoping that a site is “secure, robust and has proven systems to prevent abuse” is no more than wishful thinking
Dr Bacon says that reviews are the norm in other service sectors. There have been documented cases of damaging reviews written by rivals of commercial organisations, the writer never having partaken of the service on which they are commenting. The motive is plain: to put a competitor out of business.
Tracking these people down requires cyber detective work and there is no guarantee of success. The derogatory information might even be passed through a server in another country so it becomes difficult to invoke UK law – which itself offers scant protection anyway. Hoping that a site is “secure, robust and has proven systems to prevent abuse” is no more than wishful thinking.
Nothing on the internet is that secure. How does a doctor “ensure” that a site is secure, anyway? How many of us would understand the security measures in place, let alone be allowed to know their exact nature and function? Information on one website quickly spreads and copies appear on others. Look at how social networks have become the new playground for school bullies. It just takes one disgruntled patient to ruin your reputation through the web – and you can’t stop it.
What if you disagree with something an identifiable patient says about you? Any reply would be breach of confidence
The greatest difficulty is removing adverse comments. There is no enforcement to make sure this happens. Many websites have no direct means of contacting their operators, there’s no compulsion to reply to any email you might send them. Finally, what if you disagree with something an identifiable patient says about you? Any reply would be breach of confidence; it’s the same problem as when trying to handle adverse newspaper publicity.
There are various branches of engineering – civil, mechanical, electronic, etc. The new discipline of socially-appropriate engineering is now becoming recognised. Of any technical achievement, it asks not can we do it, but should we do it? Yes, you can hand out cards to encourage patients (or anyone) to publish comments about you on the internet. Should you do it? Of course not. You can stick your head over the parapet if you want, but when they start to shoot, you can’t stop them.
Dr Godfrey Manning, UK