ADA asks FTC to help protect dental practices from dishonest, misleading online reviews

The ADA is asking the Federal Trade Commission to help protect dental practices from dishonest or misleading reviews on social media sites.

In a Jan. 5 letter to the agency regarding its Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on deceptive or unfair uses of reviews and endorsements, ADA President George R. Shepley, D.D.S., and Executive Director Raymond A. Cohlmia, D.D.S., called it a “critical step” towards ensuring that online reviews “are fair and honest.”

“We are particularly concerned about reviews by people who are not actually patients of the dental practice, or who are misrepresenting their experiences with the dental office,” Drs. Cohlmia and Shepley wrote. “A common problem that dental offices face with these deceptive or unfair reviews is that, unlike businesses that can respond specifically to negative reviews, dentists, as health care providers, may be constrained by federal and state privacy laws from disclosing patient information even if the review is deceptive or misleading and even if the reviewer discloses their patient information in the review.”

They shared data from a recent survey by the ADA Health Policy Institute that found that while 88% of surveyed dentists reported ever receiving patient reviews online, 39% said they were unable to respond due to HIPAA regulations.

“The constraints on responding to these reviews cause injury to the business, to competition, and to consumers,” Drs. Cohlmia and Shepley wrote. “Dishonest negative reviews are unfair to the dental practice, which could lose business to a competitor for false or misleading reasons. It can also be very upsetting to the dentist to see incorrect information about their hard work posted online for anyone to find.”