Written by Laura Miller | April 11, 2011
There are dozens of websites that allow patients to rate physicians and exchange opinions about their experiences with one physician or another. It’s important for physicians to know what is being posted about them and manage their online presence because one disgruntled patient could ruin a reputation. “Patients look up physicians and see what people are saying even before they go in for initial visits,” says John Luginbill, CEO of The Heavyweights, a marketing company. “Any angry patient can post venomous things about a competent, fellowship-trained physician.” Here are four points on managing your online reputation.
1. Make sure your website or profile is first in SEO. When patients conduct a search on your name, practice or hospital, you want them to see your website or profile first instead of physician rating websites such as HealthGrades or Rate MDs. This way, patients are more likely to look at the information you’ve put forth about yourself, such as your accomplishments or professional interests, before clicking on these outside sources. Work with a web manager who is skilled in search engine optimization to provide regular updates on your site, says Bill Rabourn, founder and managing principal of Medical Consulting Group. These updates could include press releases or cross-posting of content such as video from sites like YouTube.
2. Report unattractive comments as libelous. Unfortunately, the patients most motivated to share their stories online are those who have had a bad outcome or experience with their surgeons. These patients will post anonymous comments on physician-rating websites that negatively portray surgeons and their work. However, there’s a way to remove these comments. “You’re not allowed to post libelous comments anonymously, so on many of these sites there’s a button that allows you to report abuse,” says Mr. Luginbill.
3. Actively monitor your presence. You must keep track of the online comments posted about you on a daily basis so you can remove any libelous claims immediately. There are programs, such as RepuChek or Trackur, that can automatically notify physicians when they are mentioned in cyberspace. “Oftentimes, physicians don’t even know these negative comments are being posted,” says Mr. Luginbill. If the physicians don’t keep pace with the online content about them, a patient can search their name and potentially read a scathing review on their competence, regardless of their skill level or training.
4. Dominate your presence through positive press. One way to take control of your online reputation is through creating regular news releases or updates on your practice or procedures. Compose new releases on new or “revolutionary” procedures you are performing, an upcoming event at your practice or a particularly heartening surgery you performed. Patients are able to connect with the human interest stories, and having them regularly appear on the Internet will increase your credibility. “Consumers often assume providers that advertise are more qualified simply by virtue of the fact that they advertise,” says Daniel Weinbach, executive vice president of The Weinbach Group, a healthcare marketing firm. You can also lend your expertise to a news publication that prints online. If you ask somebody about how they heard about you or who referred them, if it isn’t traced back to word-of-mouth marketing it can often be a well-placed article online or in a magazine.