Indianapolis startup aims to mend doctors’ social media

by J.K. Wall

It’s a medicine meant to ease doctors’ pain.

Local advertising firm The Heavyweights has teamed up with local search-engine-optimization consultant Found Search Marketing to create software that will track, compile and analyze all the information about a doctor on the Internet.

The two firms created a company, called RepuChek, to hawk the software, as well as to offer full-blown social media and marketing management for doctors.

The basic premise is to reduce negative comments—such as, “This doctor is a quack!” or, “He almost killed me!” and counteract those that exist by encouraging positive patient reviews.

The startup will have to compete against some larger and better-funded foes, including California-based and Profile Defenders, which has offices in New York; Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; and Washington, D.C.

But in contrast to those firms’ broad focus, Heavyweights CEO John Luginbill thinks RepuChek can stake out a niche in the medical field.

“Now docs are online checking out people’s reputations” before referring patients to them, Luginbill said. “Consumers make their choices and doctors make their choices based on things online.”

But what Luginbill thinks doctors aren’t doing is checking the information online about themselves. According to a 2008 study, more than 30 websites are posting some sort of information about doctors, typically their name, medical specialties, contact information and some consumer comments.

Luginbill said doctors should make sure that information is correct.

“Doctors would find it completely negligent to have wrong information about them in the phone book,” he said. “The new phone is the computer. That’s where [consumers] ask questions. That’s where they find information.”

RepuChek’s product, called Review Buildr, uses a Google Web trawler to search for doctors by name and by institution, generating an e-mail when there is a new note about the doctor posted online.

In addition, since so many sites allow patients to rate doctors—either with stars or numbers or some other metric—Review Buildr will convert all those ratings to a common value system, and generate a “sentiment analysis” for a doctor.

Beyond that, the service RepuChek is selling is decidedly not “techy.”

RepuChek offers brochures and placards to encourage patients to rate doctors online. It also counsels physician office staffs to ask if patients are active online raters and, if they are, what the office could improve to prompt the patient to give a positive rating.

“It’s a tool that helps sort of bridge the gap between the offline and the online world,” said Julie Warnecke, CEO of Found Search Marketing, which she founded in 2006 after working four years for California-based Google’s AdWords service.

Warnecke is a co-owner of RepuChek, along with Luginbill and his wife.

The basic monitoring service offered by Review Buildr costs $29 per month for each doctor. Marketing and social media services come on top of that, and can top $10,000 per year.

One physician that tested Review Buildr as it was being developed, Dr. J.P. Gentile, said he saw more positive reviews after trying RepuChek’s methods.

“I have found Review Buildr to be easy to use, and it doesn’t require any expensive new marketing programs because patients do the vast majority of the work for us,” said Gentile, a partner at Carmel-based Indiana Spine Group.

But Dr. Dmitry Arbuck, a pain management specialist in Carmel, doesn’t think such services are worth the cost. Arbuck, president of Meridian Health Group in Carmel, said he received a pitch from and considered it seriously.

“I almost did. I put it on my desk, and then I decided against it,” Arbuck said. “You will always chase your shadow. You can never win.”

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