Highland Park Emergency Center and Preston Hollow Emergency Room, both in Dallas, filed a petition in district court asking Google to tell them who wrote nearly two dozen negative online reviews and ratings.
The standalone emergency department (ED) facilities filed the pre-suit deposition asking for the identities of 22 screen names that they said belonged to people that they didn't treat.
Though healthcare organizations usually shrug off negative online reviews, patients are increasingly using online sources to comparison shop for care. In another recent case, an Ohio plastic surgeon sued a patient after she posted anonymous online reviews.
Hospitals, providers and other healthcare organizations have grown more interested in their online reputation as more patients share and seek out information online. Sites like Yelp, Healthgrades and Vitals, as well as social media sites like Facebook, have become places to provide thoughts about doctors’ and hospitals’ care.
Some physicians, especially younger doctors, are closely monitoring their ratings and using social media to promote their practices. They are also proactively engaging patients on those platforms. However, with those positive uses also come negative reviews and ratings, which is the situation in this Dallas case.
Freestanding EDs like the two in this case have popped up across the country, but have especially flourished in Texas. There are more than 200 standalone EDs in the state, which is nearly half of the number of freestanding facilities in the U.S.
Standalone EDs usually provide less costly care than hospital-based EDs. In some cases, payers prefer patients get their care at free-standing EDs rather than going to a hospital. That payer belief was evident when Anthem created its policy that the payer would not reimburse for emergency room visits that an Anthem medical director deems unnecessary.
Though payers are pushing patients to get care at less costly locations like freestanding EDs, there are questions about whether these facilities are actually filling gaps in care. A recent study of Texas facilities found that the standalone facilities are not filling gaps in ED care, but going into regions with more money.
In response to the growth of freestanding EDs, Texas recently enacted a law that requires those facilities to notify patients of their insurance networks. Lawmakers passed the law in an attempt to reduce surprise billing. The Center for Public Priorities released a study earlier this year that found surprise billing is a problem across the healthcare system and causes patients to get higher-than-expected hospital bills, especially for ED care.
The Commonwealth Fund also released a report on surprise billing, which said that 14% of ER visits and 9% of hospital stays were likely to produce a surprise bill.