Tuesday 18 November 2014

Yelp - right up there for reviews of Doctors - and Stepford Wives

Two medical related reasons for Yelp to be in the news today. First: they are now sharing the lead in online reviews of the medical profession with a specialist site (Healthgrades):

Read full article here

Second: A Kansas City orthodontist has again raised the question of a patient's right to free speech online: by threatening to sue the poster of a three star review on Yelp. 

See the full story here

This case also brings into question (again!) the Yelp 'review filter' - there have been 95 reviews of this orthodontics practice and 90 - yes, ninety - have been filtered. We had a long hard look at both filtered and unfiltered reviews to see if we could divine any logic. Let's have a look...

First the five unfiltered reviews:
  1. Five star - the reviewer has written 19 more reviews and has 13 Yelp 'friends'
  2. Three star - the contentious review. The reviewer has written 70 more reviews and has 27 'friends'
  3. One star - a troll who has written no more reviews and has no 'friends'
  4. One star - another trolling review. Has written fourteen more reviews and has three 'friends'
  5. Five star - 73 more reviews and 43 'friends'
Now the filtered ones:

Most, both positive and negative, are singletons (that is: they are the only review posted by that reviewer).

Now, we would understand the logic behind Yelp's filter if the two blindingly obvious trolling reviews had been filtered. But they have not. Here they are so you can judge the value they give to the Yelp community (and anyone searching for an orthodontist):

We fail to see why anyone would vote either of these 'Useful' but 13 Yelpers have to date

The message for UK medical professionals

All of this kind of comment is unhelpful to medical professionals. Sites like Yelp ought to do more to ensure the reviews they publish are written by people with first hand experience of the business being reviewed. But they are seemingly reluctant to push too far down this road for purely financial reasons. Instead they appear to be focusing on lobbying state legislatures to toughen up freedom of speech legislation to allow any 'genuinely held opinions' to be submitted and published. They seem to be blissfully unaware that the same people who write their reviews are the kind of people - the 'Stepford Wives' of Shellie W's review - who will lose their jobs when, in turn, their own employers fall victim to unfairly damaging reviews.

In the meantime businesses (and medical professionals should see themselves under this heading for the purpose of reviews - they are treated no differently) owe it to themselves and their patients to find a better way of engaging with reviews.

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