The internet is a double edged sword to the Plastic Surgeon.
Patients from near and far can read about and research our skill and services but at the same time a handful of malicious people can significantly tarnish a great reputation which we have strived to achieve and maintain.
As a surgeon and as a human I have always strived to maintain the highest ethical and moral pathway. Most of us went into medicine to help people. What we do as cosmetic surgeons may not save lives but it does save quality of life and that is evident in our patients' smiles and behavior after successful cosmetic surgery. As doctors we strive to achieve and maintain a pristine reputation but as in anything else in life, it is impossible to please all the people all the time.
The internet has given a voice to everyone but it seems like angry, bitter, malicious people take advantage of this soap box and platform much more often than normal happy folks. You can see this on comments on YouTube or blogs or chat rooms of all kinds - not just medical or plastic surgery related.
But in our field, we depend on our reputation and while you may have thousands of happy patients, a small handful of unhappy ones can affect your reputation. Personally I have seen that the vast majority of my negative online anonymous patient reviews or ratings are from people who I have either never seen in my office or have seen but refused to operate on as patients. I recently had a "1 star negative review" on YELP from a person who has never even come to my office nor met me but decided that she did not want to pay $100 for an hour of my time for a consult and felt obligated to give me a negative rating for not offering free consults! We have all had such occurrences. But how do you deal with it?
My method has always been dealing straight forward with any and all comments. If it is out there then it begs clarification and a reply from my staff or office managers or even myself. There has to be accountability. In the restaurant industry, restaurants can actually review and rate their patrons, not just vice versa! As physicians, we have to respect patient confidentiality and HIPAA but that does not mean we must be silent and let any anonymous person's comments go without a reply or clarification especially when most of us work so hard to do the right thing and practice with skill, ethics and integrity.
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