Shut It Out


I wrote a fake online review for myself once. Go ahead. You can judge. 

Here is the story:

It was years ago, back when public online reviewing of doctors was still in its infancy. I had moved my practice to a new location and while I had taken a ton of patients with me, I was still worried about building my patient panel further. 

My move had been the result of wanting to get away from a certain political mess. In the process I had created an arch nemesis who desperately wanted me to fail. 

I was going to win, by golly. I was going to be the best. I was going to stick it to the bastard…..

So I started watching my online reviews. Admittedly, it was partly out of paranoia. This fellow had already done some nasty things to me. It would not be beneath him to tank my online reputation. And so I would do a Google search for myself every week or two. I thought I was helping, doing something positive, keeping tabs, managing my online presence…

The vast majority of what was said was positive. Glowing, in fact. 

Then one day, it wasn’t. 

There was a negative review. 

I figured out from the clues that it was left by a patient who was upset that they had had an extremely rare reaction to a flu shot. I don’t have control over those sorts of reactions. It is not a product quality issue or problem with technique. It was just bad luck. Truthfully, there was even question as to whether the reaction itself was faked. Objective testing came back inconclusive.

Meanwhile, my whole mood tanked for a few weeks. Someone didn’t like me?!?!!?! I thought about people searching online for my name and pulling up this review as the first one they saw. Hell, my own mother Google searches me. Being the most recent, it was first and people just were not leaving reviews online that often. It could stay there as the first result for MONTHS! 

I stewed over it. Obsessed over it. I went back almost daily to check it out again. I could NOT get it out of my mind.

Finally, so I could sleep at night, I left myself a fake review that pushed that negative review down on the list. I felt better instantly. I had taken control of the situation. 

Or so I thought.

The ethical question started to eat at me. It did not feel right, reviewing myself. Hell, I didn’t even vote for myself during elections for section chief because it felt too dirty. Fake reviews? Gah!

It was then that I realized the truth of these reviews: They are not fair. I cannot make everyone happy. Ever. Being regularly confronted with the negative was not good for my mental health. 

So I stopped looking. 

No more Google searches for myself. I told my mother to stop emailing me every time she found something negative. I have even more recently stopped paying attention to the Press-Ganey reviews that get presented at our monthly exec meetings. 

“You are beating the system average for Likelihood To Recommend Practice but this one person here left a comment saying that you suck….”

It is not that I don’t care. I do. Very deeply, in fact. I want patients to have a good experience with me and with my office.  The negative gets weighted too heavily, though. Why does one comment negate all of the thousands of positive experiences other patients have had? Can you take good care of patients without those surveys? How does this negative barrage affect physicians?

More on this tomorrow….


92 thoughts on “Shut It Out

  1. The problem with internet reviews is that they are just too easy for someone to use as a platform to vent and then completely forget about, leaving the aftermath behind them. A million good reviews do not take the sting out of that one bad one. For what it’s worth, you seem pretty awesome to me.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. In other realms of the Internet, what you did was create an alt, or more negatively, a…sock puppet. πŸ™‚

    Ah yes… I’ve mentioned that I have an online troll, in another part of the Internet Realm, and it was the very good intentioned, innocent use of a sock puppet that landed me the troll? When I’m not whining about the Acute Drama of the Day, I really do need to write about online, adult trolls who troll adults.

    There are fake reviews? :::color me smart-ass “shocked”::: For doctors? What about for books? Tell me that for books, there aren’t ringers? OMG, and products? Other services?

    If you are getting mostly glowing then you should be inordinately pleased. As you know, human nature is such that we generally only discuss the BAD stuff that happens. It is much easier to pitch a bitch fit about how we had to wait an extra 20 minutes than have a praise fest because someone took 20 extra minutes to help us. Human nature.

    The human brain isn’t set up for all this 24-hour, round the world, constant comment and noise. From news to reviews to … I don’t think we’ve evolved to the point where it really becomes something we deal with well. Not that it can’t be done, the dealing with it, but it comes at a price.

    Liked by 4 people

    • It does come at a price. Video games change brain structure in kids. Probably this has occurred to some degree for me with my partial cyborg status from electronic health records and blogging. Perhaps this is evolution in action… My hands shake when I am away from my devices….

      Liked by 1 person

      • Attraction to devices follows an inverse square law; I used to work on supercomputers, and the attraction of having the whole thing to yourself is almost too strong to overcome. Today, if my network connection is unavailable, I can’t do anything but obsess about fixing it, even if I don’t need it right now.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I sometimes check out the reviews about doctors. It would be unrealistic not to find at least one negative comment. I think that most people would take that into account. Most reviews are positive. Everyones experience with their doctor is different. (Don’t sweat the small stuff).

    Liked by 2 people

    • Exactly. So I stopped feeding myself the negative. Stopped paying attention. What I don’t know can’t hurt me. Now when a patient makes a real live complaint in person, I am all over that. THAT is something I can fix and help. These mystery people? I don’t know who they are, is what they are saying valid? I just don’t know.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. We writers are warned from an early age not to look at the reviews. We look anyway. It makes us feel good that someone enjoyed something we produced. It hurts when someone felt it necessary to take time to say something negative. I’m getting a bit galvanized to all of it today. I’d rather direct my calories to improvement over hand wringing about the past.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. I find myself frequently irritated–or past irritated–that everybody, in every business, wants you to review what they did, particularly in the form of answering a survey. I usually decline the opportunity to answer the surveys, even if I have something to say, because many of the surveys are not designed to elicit honest responses but uniformly positive responses.

    Surveying everything is part of the trend toward quantifying your life, which is, on the whole, not a good trend. Many of the things we would most like to quantify are subjective and not measurable: “On a scale of 1 to 10, how much do you hurt?” “8.43” sounds precise but is no more useful than “quite a lot”.

    Customer service is not a competition. Pushing your patient satisfaction score from 8.5 to 8.6 is not a useful goal and does not make you a better doc than someone whose score is only 8.2. Patients with negative views should be addressed, but sometimes, as you have pointed out, those views come from doing things that are right for the patient, but not what they wanted, like not prescribing things they shouldn’t have.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. One negative review about a doctor, or other person, doesn’t usually impress me. It’s when I see a pattern of them that I take notice. But people vote best with their pocketbook. If you’re still making a salary, you must be doing something right.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I did that once too, on I worked in a department that mandated that if we were to keep our jobs, our classes had to have a class average no higher than C+. Time was I would have walked, but I was not in a situation to do that. I had to keep my job. My benefits and income were tied up in the job and I needed surgery and employment protection. I toed their egregious line and made my classes more difficult. Ultimately, I think my classes were better but students who’d NEVER gotten a grade below an A in THEIR LIVES weren’t happy and it showed on I posted a pretty fair (meaning just) review of myself saying the class had to be challenging because it was preparation for work in the “real world.” I didn’t give myself 5 stars; I gave myself a yellow head (average) with some positive comments. I did this because I wanted a voice and I realized that was nothing more than advertising. I thought I should advertise myself. After a while, like you, I quit caring. I never looked at end of the semester evals because, after 10 years, I realized they were all going to be pretty much the same thing. Most students were happy. A very few students were elated. Some students wish I was dead. That was fair. I liked most students well enough. A few were exceptional and there were a few…

    Liked by 3 people

  8. I think in all streams of life the negative always overtakes the positive. It is so very unfortunate. I think that’s why trolls are so successful at what they do. I am still suffering the effects of a mean, I’ll placed comment. I wish I had something better to say or a solution to offer. I’m looking forward to seeing what you have to say tomorrow.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I usta know my dr’s number by heart, but while we were away for those seven years, it changed. Now I Google it, and every time I do, I see his review, “Barely spoke English.” I flinch every time. He’s French-Canadian. He’s spoken English for ?? years, educated in the states, been my dr for 30 years, been a professor for Indiana University, nearing retirement. Yes, he has an accent, but for the love of puppies, he speaks English very well! What I find interesting is that it’s the first review, so it never changes. Furthermore, I’m sure it reflects where we live, and the kind of stereotypical people who live here far more than it reflects the dr.
    I think steering clear of reviews is a good idea.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I think that people with a negative experience are far more likely to take the time to fill out an online review. They are upset. They want revenge. So they go leave the review when they are fuming, not allowing themselves to cool off before leaving the review. People who are happy with their experience don’t rush online to leave the review. That said, it would mean that for every negative review left, at least 20 patients have had a great experience and haven’t left a review. Therefore, the negatives outweigh the positives, in a lot of cases. If, when reading these reviews, we could keep in mind that for every negative there are at least 20 unwritten positives, then we would do better judging or selecting which we want to follow.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Outstanding commentary! Now, Doctor, consider student surveys of teachers and professors. I did work where merit increases were partially based on the student surveys. Remember the parable about the ten, and one comes back to thank? We worry about the other nine? Sometimes I would get 9 great, and agonize over the one bad “He’s a terrible teacher!” Martha Kennedy (above) has it so right!

    Liked by 1 person

      • Even so-called civilized people are not happy with punishing people, tiger woods, the young starlets of whomever and this leads to destruction. After this is over it is on to a new victim.

        It was the Republicans who destroyed Palin and now trying to do the same to Trump. He is by no means blameless but some of his points are valid and I am just wondering how we can make it for the next 18 months. All these new regs in the military about Percocet and PAs trying to warn veterans about this without getting into trouble. We are haters and stepping over each other.


  12. I don’t know if it helps at all but when I check out Doc reviews before I see a new one. I don’t decide what I will do on one negative response. I look at the whole picture. If tons of people have negative responses and all their stories are similar, then I will be concerned and think twice about going to that doc.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I must confess that I too want to be liked. I will go out of my way to find out why people don’t like me. Over the years though, I have come to realize that my very existence is sufficient to annoy some – perhaps it is that I am tall or that I am white or that I am male or that I have spent a lot of time in management. Whatever.. I’ve never worked in an environment where my online presence has been a determining factor in how well my job was done. Probably just as well. Over the years I have hired and fired hundreds of people based on my judgement of their capabilities – as I was paid to do. If everyone that I have known was asked to do a review of me, I am sure there would be many who would be negative. I have always tried to be fair and honest and open about expectations and requirements for employees and customers However there are sometimes honest disagreements or even dishonest disagreements. I suppose that Is one of the reasons I choose to believe in a higher power – I do not think situational morals, ethics, or judgments are valid for they are often contradictory. To sleep at night I need to believe that there is a higher power and that ethics and morals stem from that. Acting on that will sometimes alienate others and create enemies – so be it.

    Some years ago, I met a trucker at a fuel distribution center and he greeted me cheerfully by name. I was embarrassed as I did not recall him and was honest in admitting so. Even when he described the place and time that he had worked for me, I still couldn’t recall. Then he told me that I had fired him. I asked if I was justified in doing so and he replied that I had been justified, He said that he had had a bad attitude and I did not tolerate it long before terminating him. He assured me that he had changed now and was much better.. Ha! Had he done a review of me online right after I fired him , that would still be out there even though his perception of me had changed.

    Basically Victo, I guess what I am saying is do what you feel is right and ethical – treat others with respect (as I know you do) and let the chips fall where they may. It is my experience that you are not doing it right unless you are pissing someone off. πŸ˜€

    Liked by 1 person

    • I do not have any idea how I missed this! Generally my app does a great job with keeping up with the notifications. So, so sorry. I and everyone else love your long comments. I cannot promise that I will never miss something again for you or anyone else but I try very hard to reply and acknowledge everyone so if I ever don’t respond to you I am either dead or I missed it somehow.


      • True. But not here. If I don’t like something you say, I will tell you. I enjoy your comment immensely, though. I don’t see that ever happening. To respond to your comment above, I choose to believe in a higher power, too. It helps me make sense of a senseless world.

        Liked by 1 person

  14. Critical reviews sting, but I have had a couple of really negative ones, one awful one, and a few that were very constructive. You’re right…you can’t please all of the people all of the time. With annonymity being what it is on the web…you can’t even please yourself. Ha! I still enjoy seeing what people have to say.


  15. I am the one who reviews the survey results and reports out for our agency. I would say that for every 8 great ones, there is maybe one or two not so good. I can dig into it which is not easy because the bad ones are always anonymous, but there are ways. they are often people who were discharged before they thought they were ready or are facing a life style change they are not willing to make. they can just be plain old nasty people in general. I think very little of people who send something they know will have an impact and then not sign their name. I take that into consideration when I review their results. I also love the ones who say they hate your care, your impossible to work with, never call back and so on and then at the end give you a 10 for overall. The whole survey process is a joke and I would not waste the time on it except we need to for …well you know….

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I never read reviews of my doctors, nor do I ever leave reviews. Just because I love (or hate) one of my docs doesn’t mean others won’t have the opposite opinion. Although there was the time (after the birth of my last child, when I was going in to have my tubes tied) that a nurse-paralegal I worked with heard the name of my obstetrician and blurted out, “You’re going to HIM? I wouldn’t let him operate on my cat!” Needless to say, that comment caused me just a wee bit more anxiety during the surgical procedure. I subsequently read some of the litigation transcripts and found out that nurse was right in her assessment.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I never thought to look at doctor reviews…but my brother is a (not an easy A, he’ll admit it) college professor and he gets creamed sometimes. And I’ve found reviews by others of products I purchase to be random in terms of my satisfaction. Unfortunately, though, employers are very swayed by these things…

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Your post reminded me the very reason some say giving a voice to everyone isn’t a perfect system…..I had my share of patients hating me for all the reasons you’d be aware of as well. I prefer to think about the few patients who still call me, 3 months after I left practice. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Isn’t it interesting how you can have 10 positive reactions and then 1 negative one which then overshadows everything? How this 1 negative reaction sticks to you and makes you forget the 10 good ones? Crazy how we work… The see-saw is not really balanced in this case, isn’t it?

    Liked by 1 person

      • Just had a conversation with my girl which kind of went in that direction. She plays soccer and is in the goal for half the game. They have not lost a single game so far this season (which is almost over) and now somehow the pressure seems to get to her. Out of 14 goals they got she only got 2. They have 3 more games until the season is over and now she feels she lets her team down if they lose a game… I tried to explain to her how well they all played so far and that it doesn’t really matter if they’d lose one of the remaining 3 games or even all of them. But she can’t see it that way at the moment…

        Liked by 1 person

  20. We all want to be liked. I work in a soul sucking political job and have had some “dissatisfied customers” write manifestos about me to the politicians I work for. The first time (yes there have been a few upset people) I was soo depressed and I scrutinized every negative word – even the knock on my hair! But eventually I got over it. There will always be that one person out there trashing and bashing but as long as the positive outweighs the negative then you are right to move on from it. Looking forward to the other side of this story! πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  21. I’ve read research that purports that our minds are wired to remember negative experiences as a priority because negative experiences are perceived as threats to survival. I’ve also read research that purports that one can eat as much peanut butter as one wants and lose weight. It’s not working and I’ll never forget it.

    Liked by 2 people

  22. I get it. I’m already worrying about and fretting over bad reviews that haven’t even happened yet. But I’ve convinced myself that they’re coming and I’m already feeling irritated by said non-existent bad reviews. They’ve even prompted me to begin crafting my defenses (“The reviewer misses the point”…”In fact multiple studies confirm the conclusion”…”It has hard to convince a person to accept something as true when his salary depends upon it not being true”…etc.). Sometimes I will overcome the negative reviews by being smug and dismissive. Other times I will overwhelm them with my deep knowledge of the scholarship. I could even override them with some fake reviews (good idea) that I’m sure many would write if they had the time (so that they’re not actually dishonest or anything). Not that I am too sensitive, or overly defensive. I just want to set the record straight. That’s all.

    Better yet, I could just follow your good advice and not look at them.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. you can’t win over those trolls, there’s no converting them, better to leave them under the bridge. I sell OTC stuff on amazon, I have 1 star reviews for customers claiming things that never happened!!

    Liked by 1 person

  24. I understand your pain… Last week, I became obsessed when someone disliked each of the YouTube videos of the commercials I produced for my boss. I didn’t settle for the fact that they might have a bone to pick with them, I took it as a personal insult. *sigh* Good luck to you! ❀

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Pingback: My Article Read (9-22-2015) (9-23-2015) | My Daily Musing

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