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Beware of medical clinics' fake online reviews

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 Beware of medical clinics' fake online reviews (Photo: iStock)

Medical advertising comes in many forms. There's the traditional formal print and audio-visual media advertising. There are billboards. There's word of mouth. Increasingly, there's now online and social media med advertising.

Competition among healthcare service providers means each player has to enhance their visibility to potential clients. Even if it means faking it. Positive reviews and testimonials are powerful tools that can elevate a clinic over its competitors.

Think of it this way. You are suffering from a condition and are seeking the best healthcare provider. You stumble upon positive online reviews of a certain clinic from those who have patronised it. Chances are you'll be immediately persuaded to head there as well.

But unbeknown to many, a lot of such online reviews are fakes! A recent BBC expose has highlighted this matter in the UK. It found evidence of fake positive reviews in selected private clinics. The reviews can be bought online.

In some cases, the same reviewers had posted testimonials for completely different businesses elsewhere in the world, including Australia, Canada and the US.

They unsurprisingly had posted reviews for other medical businesses elsewhere too. And the unsuspecting public was none the wiser when selecting such clinics for healthcare.

You may have purchased lots of gadgets and everyday items after fake online reviews. You could easily brush that off as an unguarded moment and write off your losses. But healthcare is way too different and sensitive. You may end up with a quack, get harmed in the process, and eventually face grave health repercussions.

But is there any way of identifying fake online med reviews? Be suspicious when testimonials are all penned with glowing accolades, especially when all of them are hosted on the clinic's website. Try and find another way of authenticating the clinic's credentials.

You could pay the clinic a visit if easily accessible to you, and try to observe what goes on. Initiating a casual conversation with some employees may give you insights.

If still unsure, you could test the quality of service by booking an appointment and using that to make an objective judgment. Unfortunately, fake online reviews about med clinics are here to stay. There isn't any law currently to stop clinics from faking what they project online. And proving fakes beyond a reasonable doubt is an uphill task.

But there needs to be some form of deterrent. This can only be spearheaded by legislative medical authorities, who should develop the capacity to protect healthcare consumers from such practices. But until such deterrence comes through, it is up to you to try and spot fake from genuine reviews about med clinics that you frequently patronise.

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