Not far behind media coverage of the coronavirus pandemic per se have been reports on how medical facilities and the workers therein have been suffering as a consequence.
Shukan Jitsuwa (Sept 23) turns its attention to sites known as byoin kuchikomi, which invite patients or their families to rate their satisfaction with hospital treatment and/or services.
A low ranking, needless to say, can result in patients taking their business elsewhere.
"For quite some time now, the tabelog sites for restaurants were able to boost rankings by employing paid reviewers," says the operator of a pediatric clinic in Tokyo's Edogawa Ward. "From around last year, something similar began to happen with hospitals. This has led to serious problems for patients who put their trust in online rankings."
The problem with restaurant reviews on tabelog sites is that while in theory the comments and ratings are supposed to be made by amateurs who actually patronized the establishment, it has become common to procure the services of businesses to post glowing reviews -- a practice referred to as yarase. The word literally means "made to do it," but is defined in the dictionary as a staged event or prearranged performance.
"There are also specialty businesses that arrange for posting favorable reviews on the kuchikomi sites of hospitals," a person employed in the IT sector tells the magazine.
"In particular, these companies are said to target ear-nose-throat and pediatric physicians, and the hospitals and clinics where they work, both of which have suffered from sharp declines in patients due to the coronavirus pandemic," he explains.
The aforementioned pediatrician admits, with embarrassment, that he, too, procured such services.
"Our hospital is one with close ties to local residents. Normally we were ranked at 4 on a scale of 5, but a lot of negative comments were posted about some of our younger physicians, and the rating dropped to 2," he explains. "I was approached by telephone by one of these kuchikomi specialists, who told me, 'We can raise your ratings.' I decided to procure his services, for which I paid 300,000 yen."
Normally in kuchikomi sites, the organization being rated cannot alter or delete negative comments. It is possible to request that a post be expunged, but the site will not take action unless it is clearly demonstrated that the post is in violation of the site's rules.
In any event, thanks to its securing of professional assistance the pediatric site's rating was brought back up to 4.
An ENT specialist in Tokyo's Koto Ward tells Shukan Jitsuwa that he was approached by a yarase specialist.
"He told me that a new clinic had just opened in front of the station, and despite it's not being in operation for any length of time, it was already flaunting rave reviews from patients," the doctor said.
A medical writer remarked, "Some of these kuchikomi operators are outright crooks, going so far as to telling doctors that if they don't pay for their service, they'll concoct a scandal, or arrange for negative posts that will cause the clinic's ratings to plummet."
It may be stating the obvious, but medical facilities, into which people entrust their health and very lives, shouldn't be in the position of being coerced to pay money for favorable ratings. The writer concludes with the hope that the authorities will subject this unethical racket to rigorous investigation.© Japan Today