Your Practice

How Physicians Can Manage and Protect Their Online Reputation

The use of review sites is on the rise. We all read reviews about restaurants, movies, electronics...almost everything. And doctors are no exception. Consumers are choosing who cares for them and they want to make sure their doctors are vetted. The best way for consumers to learn about a new doctor is to look at online reviews.

Patients are not only reading these sites to help them choose who they'll see for their health care, but they're also leaving their own reviews -- positive and negative. Because of the real impact these reviews can have on your practice, it's important that physicians are aware of their online reputation and are taking the proper steps to present themselves authentically.

According to a 2014 study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, 19 percent of respondents said physician rating sites are very important in their search for a doctor. Thirty-five percent of respondents said they had chosen a doctor based on positive ratings, and 37 percent avoided a physician because of negative ratings.

The study also found that about two-thirds of the general public are aware of physician rating sites, but only 36 percent have used them. The authors cautioned that patient ratings may not be balanced, as only 5 percent of adults reported that they have posted reviews about a doctor.

Search Yourself

In order to protect your online reputation, you have to know what's being said about you. The first step to doing this is simply searching for your name to see where you are being talked about. You may also want to set up alerts on search engines so that you are notified whenever your name or practice is mentioned online. Be sure to include variations of your name, including Dr., MD, or both.

Control the Message

Once you find mentions of your name, make sure the information provided is correct. Edit your profile if the site gives you the option to do so.

You may also want to place an emphasis on professional achievements and style of care. These sites are often a potential patient's first impression of you and your practice, so you'll want to make sure you are portraying yourself in the best light. Take care to avoid embellishments.

If you aren't part of a Medical Foundation or an Independent Physician Association (more on this below) and you don't have your own website, you should make one, including buying a domain with your name (e.g., drjohnsmithmd.com). Doing so means that, when a patient searches your name, your website will be at the top of search results.

You may also want to sign up for social media websites. This content needs to be updated and monitored regularly, but it allows you to control a portion of what is being said about you online. It also allows you to interact directly with current or potential patients. If a patient leaves a negative comment, take the time to respond in a calm manner and let them know that you're working toward addressing the problem. Once those changes are made, you'll want to update your websites and profiles to say so.

Be a Good Partner with Your Group

If you are part of an Independent Practice Association or are employed through a Medical Foundation, you may already have a number of resources available to you to help manage your online reputation. Your foundation or group's administration may have a website established that you can direct patients to, and they may have specific guidelines regarding establishing social media profiles. Working with the other physicians in your practice to establish a strong reputation for the group as a whole can make a big difference when consumers start their search for a doctor.

Be Proactive

At the end of a visit, you may want to ask patients or caregivers to review you. If they are happy with the care you provided, they'll go home and write a positive review. If there is anything they were unhappy with, they'll likely mention it before they leave, which gives you the opportunity to ask them what you can do to fix it. A little transparency can go a long way, and showing you care will help them get into a more positive mindset before they sit down at the keyboard.

Mastering and taking control of your online reputation can only benefit your practice. Digital marketing is essential for any business, so don't let this important step fall by the wayside.

Posted in Your Practice

Tayla Holman is a Boston-based writer and journalist. She graduated from Hofstra University, where she double-majored in print journalism and English with a concentration in publishing studies and literature. She has previously written for The Inquisitr, USA Herald, EmaxHealth, the Dorchester Reporter, and Healthline. Tayla is the founder and editor of WholeWomanHealth.org, a natural and holistic health website for women.

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*This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute health care advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or physician before making health care decisions.