DRHOOK- Internet indictment: Ignore anonymous doctor raters

the handsome doctor John Hong of Charlottesville

Critics are artists who never succeeded or have no talent. 

Ever hear that notion before? I can't believe I'm defending Paula Abdul, but she knows more than Simon Cowell on American Idol. She performed for years and knows what it takes to be a performer. Simon– well, he just criticizes. But in his defense, he's brave enough to always criticize people face to face. He's heroic enough to stand by what he says. He's also a successful producer.

What about people who criticize doctors on the Internet?

Did you know there are websites in which people write comments about doctors? I heard about it, and I decided to check it out. It's shocking! 

I randomly chose doctors on ratemds.com to see what "patients" have said about them. My first question was, "Are these real patients? How do we know they actually saw the doctor?" No commenters are identified, so for all we know the "patient" could be anyone.

 Okay, get this. I chose a Virginia doctor at random. Rater #1: "Dr. X and all the doctors here are super...." Rater #2: "Dr. X is one of the most unprofessional doctors I have ever had the experience to interact with." Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde or rater #2 didn't get a parting gift basket?

 Here's another one– a major soap opera. Rater #1: "I was impressed with Dr. Y's credentials and with her approach on my first appointment...." 

Now it gets juicy. Rater #2: "Dr. Y is not all that! She was suspended by the Virginia Board of Medicine...." Rater #3: "As Dr. Y's patient for more than five years, I would strongly disagree with the comments of ‘anonymous.' Dr. Y is the most caring and compassionate doctor I have ever encountered...." 

Okay, now, fasten your seatbelt. Rater #Infinity, "As I am the wife and former patient whose husband she cheated with, I believe...."

 As the Patients Turn.... 

 So my question is how can we know what is true? Also, define truth. If someone has a major problem due to psychological or emotional issues, their truth is going to be different than your truth. 

One doctor has a website, and his patients use it as a support center. Unfortunately, one of his patients decided to break bad on him. Another one of his patients said everyone on the website knew this unsatisfied patient had "major issues" and should be ignored. But what will a prospective patient think about such ugliness?

 I still have not read anything written about me on the Internet when it comes to my profession as a doctor. Why would I want to know? I prefer real people saying real things directly to me. 

 One public official told me when folks have said unwarranted mean comments on the Internet about him, he sometimes calls them to discuss it. And the funny thing is that these critics always back down– which shows that anonymity is like road rage. 

 Also, since most doctors are pretty busy taking care of patients, they really don't have time to keep up with these anonymous websites that rate doctors. So the readers will never know what the full story is– and every story has at least two sides. 

 For the folks who lash out on the Internet, let me give you some advice. First, don't end every sentence with a preposition (which I see a lot of). Consider if you would want someone to attack you when you had no way to defend yourself. How would you feel if doctors had a webpage to rate patients?


Dr. Hook cracks a joke or two, but he's a renowned physician with a local practice and an interesting website, drjohnhong.com. Email him with your questions.