Fake Dental Patient Reviews Online: Are You A Victim?
Increasingly, online reviews on dental office websites and social media have become a staple in the practice’s marketing mix. People often access these consumer reviews when trying to find a dental provider. The question becomes: can we trust these reviews? The answer is too often a categorical no!
An expert intervenes
Katheryn “Kay” Dean is the head of Fake notice watch, a watchdog group for consumers cheated by big tech companies and dishonest companies. Dean was previously a Special Agent in the Office of the Inspector General of the US Department of Education. Over the past three years, she has conducted extensive investigations of fake reviews on Yelp, Google, Facebook, and other review sites.
We asked Dean how prevalent the problem of fake patient reviews online is in the dental industry. “I can’t quantify this as the percentage of dentists nationwide who receive bogus reviews,” she said. “I can say that the problem is important. I am a lonely citizen investigator and I know 60 dentists who receive false advice. Some are on Facebook to solicit fake reviews; In one of my surveys, I even asked someone representing a dental office in Los Angeles to send me a Facebook message with a proposal for a fake Yelp review to post for the office.
She added: “I recommend you watch my recent video, Manhattan dentist, other US medical / dental offices in network receive fake Google reviews. You’ll notice six dental offices from across the country on the first spreadsheet in this video that are part of a network receiving fake Google reviews.
Currently, there are few consequences for the online sites that profit from fake reviews aimed at the public, the dental offices who buy the fake review generation service, and the brokers who facilitate this deceptive industry of fake reviews online. Dean offered some suggestions.
“Fake reviews are more deceptive than the old-fashioned fake ads because people think they were written by impartial third parties based on their actual experiences. Additionally, online reviews have become extremely important in the 21st century market. A 2018 Pew study found that 93% of American adults use online reviews when they first purchase something (including services). Therefore, fake reviews can create unfair competition for honest businesses, including dentists. “
Dean categorically states, “Dental boards and district attorneys must crack down on this form of false advertising and punish violators with public fines and convictions. Unfortunately, the issue is not currently receiving the attention of regulators and regulators.
“We also need revised legislation (Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act) to hold tech companies and review sites accountable for massive fraud on their platforms, ”she continued. “At the moment they are making minimal effort to clean it up because no one is being held responsible.”
What can be done?
In today’s online business environment, consumers of dental products are very vulnerable. Enforcement and oversight by state and federal authorities is virtually non-existent. Ethical dental practices are at a distinct disadvantage compared to the competition. This is the Wild West of deceptive unregulated online marketing reviews. What should future dental patients do?
“The simple answer is not to use online reviews,” Dean said. “All of the review sites are operated by certain companies, even health and dental professionals. When I say all sites, I mean all sites. I even found some bogus reviews on Vitals and Healthgrades, for example.
“Consumers also shouldn’t think they can spot fake reviews,” she continued. “Many bogus reviews contain a lot of detail because they are written by someone associated with the company. I recommend talking to real people instead of relying on virtual people. Also, when it comes to finding medical and dental specialists, trust the recommendations of your primary care physicians.
In my research for this article, it became clear to me that many dental practices, from small solo generalist practices to some large dental support organizations (DSOs), use falsified dental notices as part of their mix strategy. marketing. In today’s world, it’s pretty easy to cover up 500 fake reviews from the same IP address in India, Nigeria, or Philadelphia, Mississippi.
In addition, social media platforms benefit from the additional traffic generated by a multitude of fake reviews. Massive clicks from readers increase the total number of visits to their site, deceptive or not, which entices advertisers. More clicks from viewers means more money for those who operate and support the site online. In many situations, brokers selling the positive online review service may approach dental office management or owners. Some operate legitimately. Others are very “creative” in generating positive online reviews.
It is theoretically possible that a dental office could be tricked into buying a bogus patient assessment service online. However, when the services of dental staff are retained to fabricate exams, this is clearly a misrepresentation. When the positive reviews bear little or no resemblance to the real patients in the practice, it’s time to wave a red flag. Feigned ignorance is a bad legal or ethical defense.
Michael W. Davis, DDS, maintains a general dentistry practice in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He chairs the peer review committee of his district dental society and is involved in matters relating to state dental associations. He is also active in consulting and expert witness work for a variety of lawyers. Dr Davis can be contacted at [email protected] or on his website, smilesofsantafe.com.