Thu, Nov 26, 2020 – 6:01 AM
DOCTORXDENTIST has removed all reviews of doctors from its online platform after the Singapore Medical Council (SMC) on Wednesday warned medical practitioners against associating with online search engine optimisation platforms that make use of patient feedback and ratings.
In what is turning out to be a drawn-out battle between the startup and the medical community, SMC said that such feedback and ratings can be considered to be patient testimonials, which are forbidden under the SMC’s Ethical Code and Ethical Guidelines and the Handbook on Medical Ethics.
It added that medical practitioners should not be paying for such services by purchasing packages from these platforms for the purpose of obtaining patient testimonials.
Online search engine optimisation or SEO platforms optimise content for search engines, increasing the visibility of this content so consumers can find it easily through search engines like Google.
The SMC said in its advisory to doctors: “Payment for such packages or services could be considered to be express agreement on the part of medical practitioners to allow patient testimonials to be part of their publicity and medical advertisement activities.”
Though SMC did not mention any website by name, The Business Times understands from sources that DoctorxDentist offers SEO subscription packages that range from S$3,000 to S$5,000 per month, with users locked in for at least six months.
The startup’s general manager Tyr Ding said paying doctors were always paying for content generation, but never for reviews.
Checks by BT last month showed that non-paying doctors on the platform had reviews as well, with some doctors unaware that they were being reviewed.
Some members of the medical community have raised issues regarding conflict of interest, in that paying doctors appeared to have more reviews than non-paying ones, BT understands.
Ms Ding said that DoctorxDentist was primarily created to educate patients, and at first, this was achieved only through write-ups. “Patient reviews were actually a feature highly requested by patients, and we felt that it added value for these patients by redefining their patient journeys before the consultation process,” she said.
“However, based on all the recent circulars, we are aware that some doctors do not like these reviews placed on a third-party platform.”
It is unclear whether SMC’s advisory on Wednesday will affect the conduct of doctors on other review platforms such as Google My Business, a free service through which some clinics have received a large number of reviews.
DoctorxDentist has removed the profiles of at least 9,700 doctors – leaving it with about 300 profiles, though this figure might change – after the SMC said it was considering legal action against the startup.
The Ministry of Health (MOH) and SMC had taken issue with the company for replicating the SMC directory of registered medical practitioners without having obtained written permission, as well as for giving the impression that MOH had endorsed the platform.
Asked whether it is still considering legal action, the SMC told BT that it is “studying its options” and is unable to comment further.
DoctorxDentist removes at least 9,700 doctors from its platform, aims to be more transparent
Singapore Medical Council may take legal action against DoctorxDentist
DoctorxDentist’s headache grows as MOH, medical bodies lean on platform
DoctorxDentist a bitter pill for practitioners; medical association steps in while threat of legal action brews
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