Why physicians must protect their online reputation

February 10, 2016

It seems only yesterday that word of mouth was the primary means for the public to hear opinions about physicians. But today, patients and potential patients are more likely to obtain such information online.

It seems only yesterday that word of mouth was the primary means for the public to hear opinions about physicians. But today, patients and potential patients are more likely to obtain such information online. In the process, comments posted about any physician-good or bad-are available to be seen by anyone, anywhere.

Certainly the inclination to rely on online searches for information on products or services, including healthcare, is a trend that can’t be ignored. It’s a way of life most notably with millennials, but is also becoming increasingly common with other generations.
“Google has made it much easier for patients to research physicians online,” says Brandon Seymour, CEO of Beymour Consulting, a Boca Raton, Florida, consulting firm specializing in search engine optimization and online reputation management. “This level of transparency puts a lot of pressure on physicians and their staff to consistently provide top-quality service.”  

 


Unfortunately, a pattern of excellence may not be enough. Thriving in the age of social media may also require careful management of your online reputation. In fact, paying attention to your online image is tremendously important, according to Kevin Pho, MD, a New Hampshire internist who writes and speaks on social media. “More patients than ever are going online,” he says. “If you’re not proactive about the information that can be found about you online, you might not like what you see.”
Pho suggests creating online content about yourself. One strategy is to develop a profile on a site such as LinkedIn or Doximity. Such sites offer the opportunity to present positive information about you and your practice.
Pho also suggests encouraging more patients to rate you online at sites such as Yelp and Healthgrades. “The majority of online reviews are positive,” he says. “If you ask patients to express their satisfaction, their comments can drown out any negative reviews.”
Handing out cards to patients with selected rating sites is a simple approach for increasing the volume of reviews, he notes.
It’s also important to avoid overlooking the inevitable negative reviews. “Listen to what’s being said,” he says. “There may be legitimate concerns. People could be upset about nurses or parking or magazines not being current.” Studying such details can lead to corrective actions.
Reviewing the online presence maintained by other physicians can also provide helpful insights. “One of the great things about online communication is that it is viewable by the masses,” says Linda Pophal, MA, a digital marketing consultant for Strategic Communications in Delafield, Wisconsin. “That means you can easily see what others are doing online. You can learn from what seems to be working for them, and what doesn’t.”

 


Along with monitoring and managing online reviews, it’s important for physicians to have an up-to-date website, Seymour says. “Patient testimonials, staff and office photos, and information about the physician can be a huge value-add when potential patients are researching medical professionals,” he says.
Finally, it’s wise to refrain from addressing comments that you consider inaccurate or unfair.
“You’ll probably just get into an argument and when that happens, things rarely turn out well,” he says.

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