Who’s Behind All These Fake Patient Reviews?
First, let’s talk about who the most common culprits are when it comes to fake patient reviews.
- Purchased Reviewers
- Fake Accounts
The reasons behind why someone would go online and leave a fake review are complex, and it’s impossible to know each nuance leading to every review, but we’ll be breaking down each of these fake-reviewer archetypes to help you better understand this phenomenon (and how you can better protect yourself).
The Ex-Employee Fake Review
Sometimes, it’s inevitable that an employee will leave under unfortunate circumstances. Whether they have a reason to feel jilted or not, sometimes ex-employees will take to the web to slander your practice because they know this will impact the business in one way or another.
In these cases, it may be worth reaching out to an ex-employee if you notice a slew of negative reviews from suspicious-looking accounts popping up shortly after their exit from the practice, but it’s unlikely you’ll get a confession or any of the reviews taken down.
The Ex-Employee fake review will often have a few hallmarks to give it away. Like we mentioned, you may have noticed a handful of negative reviews appear in the weeks following Emily Employee’s departure. These reviews often feature more intimate details from the perspective of the “patient,” of course.
Maybe the review will claim that the patient witnessed the doctor or staff picking on a specific employee. “When we were waiting in the lobby,” one such review may read. “We saw Dr. Awesome yell at one of the nurses after she had just helped us get settled in! There was no reason for it and we’re not going to bring our business back to a doctor who treats someone like that!”
Others may point out issues that could frustrate a staff member, like computer systems crashing or the practice often running behind schedule due to an influx of patients. In these cases, it may have nothing to do with you or something you have done directly. Instead, these ex-employees are venting their annoyances through a review as a way for standing up for themselves – rightly or not.
In any case, it’s important to treat these fake patient reviews just like you would any other and not try to call out a specific employee in your response. Remember, private conversations should be held in private – and there’s no telling if your guess is right. Instead of accusing an ex-employee, respond politely with an offer to rectify the situation through a phone discussion or an in-office conversation. Though you may not be able to remove a fake review, it’s important to use each one as an example of the way you care about customer experience by responding cordially.
Purchased Reviewers Who Leave Fake Negative Patient Reviews
The internet is a place where almost anything can be bought – legally or illegally, moral or immoral. And that’s why it’s possible that the fake patient reviews you’re receiving are coming from purchased reviewers running a campaign against your practice. Who purchased these reviews can be unclear, and doctors often never find out where they have come from, but the fact remains that these types of fake patient reviews happen and must be dealt with.
Much like the generic internet troll or even DDoS attacks aimed at a specific website, purchased reviewers are posting their negative reviews purely because they have been paid. You may notice that these reviews seem to be coming from individuals whose English doesn’t seem quite right.
Or you may notice that the details in the review are just a little bit strange. Are they insulting the doctor or practice personally? Are they claiming you incorrectly used a machine that you don’t even have in the office? Or performed a treatment you know isn’t done in your office? If you answered yes to any of these questions, it’s likely that you may be dealing with paid reviewers who are writing just to write and collect their check.
Though we’ll get more into what you can do to protect yourself from fake reviews in general, it’s important to maintain composure and respond just like you would to any other real negative review – cordially and with an invitation to discuss their negative experience. Out of the public’s eye, you may even try to flag the review and get it taken down if it seems obviously out of place and fake.
Fake Accounts That Are Building Up Their “Reputation”
When researching the account that has just left you a fake review, you may notice that they have a slew of negative reviews attributed to their username. Or maybe it’s slightly more of a mixed bag.
Fake accounts may or may not be linked to someone purchasing a negative review campaign, but they are just as potent. If you haven’t built up a reputation and “padding” of positive reviews, even a single one-star review could dramatically lower your rating.
Google, as we mentioned earlier, is taking small steps to improve their filtering system. Now, the number of a reviewer’s total reviews is shown next to their name to better help you decipher the validity of the review. It’s worth looking into accounts that have many reviews next to their name to look for any trends in location or review type. Or maybe each review is for a business from a drastically different area around the world – in these cases, all these fake accounts are after is a history that may make them seem real. Whether you’re the true target or not, these accounts are using a fake patient review to give them the long-term power to negatively impact others.
In fact, some of these fake accounts may be gathering a strong “reputation” so they can be sold later on. This practice happens all over the web, from Facebook to Reddit, so that individuals willing to pay can have a “trustworthy” group of accounts to do their bidding.
Non-Patients Who Are Leaving Accidental or Fake Negative Reviews
The purpose of online reviews is to let people doing their research see the reality of a practice or business – not to see someone’s second-hand version. That’s why we’re including non-patients in our list of fake reviewers who you may find commenting on your practice.
Within this category, though, it’s important to remember that sometimes real people will make an honest mistake and leave a review for the wrong practice, so it’s important to research each name and respond accordingly.
However, there are fake reviewers who may know a family-member or friend who voiced some opinion about your practice, and the reviewer has taken it upon themselves to leave a negative review on their friend’s behalf. Other times, it may be a personal acquaintance wanting to stir up some trouble with the success of your practice. Or it could be someone who simply gets a kick out of leaving negative reviews on businesses they have never visited.
In the healthcare world, this type of fake patient review will likely speak in generalities or about the experience of someone else while giving you a three-or-below star rating. Sometimes, they may not even leave a comment at all!
These singular one-star ratings stand out in that, if someone has a real complaint, they often will write something rather than nothing. Oftentimes, you can click through to these accounts and find that there’s very little to prove they’re a real person. Better yet, run a quick search to see if a patient by that name has even come into your office!
Just as positive reviews require a response, negative ratings should also get a response. Similarly to wordy negative reviews, you will want to inquire about their experience and extend an invitation to discuss what led them to leave such a low review offline.
In the review above, you can see that the practice has looked into their database to find “Faheem Arshad,” the reviewer who left a one-star rating without a comment, and couldn’t find him. This is a red flag, but they’ve responded with a diplomatic correction (“Unfortunately you have left a review for the wrong practice.”) and an invitation to come and actually become a patient with the practice.
Competitors and Fake Patient Reviews
We have seen a steep rise in the occurrence of fake patient reviews, more specifically negative ones. In almost all of these cases, profit is the clear motive behind the attacks – and this is especially true if a competitor is waging this type of campaign against you.
If you’re an exceptional doctor, who has completed coveted and respected fellowships or who has perfected a technique with the most cutting-edge technology, you may find multiple negative reviews left on your individual professional and practice’s online profiles – and something just isn’t adding up.
Unfortunately, not all doctors and practices find fault with using fake patient reviews to soil the reputation of another doctor. These are other local practices who may not be as established or have as many clients as they need to be successful, so they’re looking for ways to increase their own profit at the expense of other practices.
The result of these efforts? Patients doing research for the “Best Hip Surgeon in New York” may find your profile, and see your many reviews, but be appalled by the most recent negative review that claims you’re inexperienced, careless, and harmed them with your treatment. To the unaware researcher, this can be enough to sway them into clicking away and looking at the next practitioner.
For competitors leaving negative reviews, the goal is straight-forward: profit by getting people to abandon your practice in favor of theirs. After all, some would argue that an account with no, or few, reviews would be looked at more favorably by prospective patients than a practice that has some good reviews but a handful of scathing, negative ones.