This post has been modified to reflect new information since its original publication.
Negative content published about physicians and other health professionals can detrimentally affect their online reputations and the success of their practices. Defamatory online content can take the form of doctor reviews on websites such as www.RateMDs.com and www.HealthGrades.com or as misleading newspaper articles that paint a physician in an incorrect or unflattering light.
Doctors seeking to control their reputations online have turned to a wide range of tactics. How doctors can manage negative content online is varied. Some approaches can help their practice reach new levels of success; others can backfire, causing significant digital PR headaches.
Tactics that work for physician reviews by patients are different from those used to combat incorrect information that’s published by media organizations. That said, by developing a comprehensive internet reputation management, or an online reputation management (ORM) strategy, physician reviews and ultimately reputation become a positive way to deal with virtually any type of negative content.
Medical Practice/Physician Reputation & Review Management
ReputationDefender has recognized that physicians rely heavily on their online reputation/reviews and after consulting with many individual doctors from across the US, have developed services and tools to assist in monitoring, improving and repairing online reviews and reputations. As you’ll see below, we’ve laid out some general best practices for improving or maintaining your current online physician review and reputation situation. However, we also realize that a physician’s time is highly valuable and may be better spent elsewhere. To this end, ReputationDefender has developed ReputationDefender® and Reputation for Business, two services that can help a doctor build, improve, or repair his or her online presence.
Reputation for Business
While Reputation for Business offers a number of different levels of service, from simple monitoring through to a fully managed PR service, the top packages are designed to not only save many hours/month that typically need to be spent on ones online presence but also to increase business by nipping bad reviews in the bud and improving the online presence of the business through positive reviews from a doctors actual clients. Reputation for Business is a service that ReputationDefender recommends every doctor and practice have in place – the increase in business from a positive online presence is priceless. To fix physician reviews or simply create a buffer of positive reviews, Reputation for Business is a service and not just an online tool that puts you back in charge of your businesses reputation.
ReputationDefender® is a very specific service, and unlike Reputation for Business is not something that is recommended (or needed) for most physicians. ReputationDefender® has been specifically designed for doctors that have been attacked online through blogs, articles, and review sites by disgruntled patients or former employees. Unfortunately, under the law it is virtually impossible to have a court order the removal of online content. however, it can be suppressed through techniques that we’ve developed here at ReputationDefender. Essentially anyone who googles you or your practice won’t look past the first couple pages of results. And if all they find are positive articles, reviews, and sites, then the negative material is substantially mitigated.
Best Practices for Online Review/Reputation Management
Tip 1: Focus on the positive, and share factual information.
When it comes to consumer-generated content, some doctors have tried to patch up their Internet reputations by asking patients to sign will-not-review agreements. This approach is prone to failure. First, legal precedent makes it unlikely that such agreements would hold up in court. Second, doctors risk alienating long-term patients and encouraging spite-based online reputation attacks. The website RateMDs.com even maintains a “Wall of Shame” for physicians who try to prevent patients from posting reviews.
A better approach is to keep tabs on the kinds of criticisms being leveled against your Internet reputation and to post factual information to counter these critiques.
Keep tabs on criticisms
Many physician review websites allow MD’s to display professional profiles, which can be used to defuse potential attacks and to control your reputation. Doctor-patient confidentiality prevents you from directly engaging online critics; however, you can address common themes in a general manner.
For instance, patient comments like “The doctor seemed rushed” can be downplayed with a statement such as “We are one of the few specialty practices in this area, and we pride ourselves on serving as many patients as possible.”
A creative, positive response exists for virtually any criticism. And when you do find content that addresses a genuine shortcoming, use it as an opportunity to improve your practice.
Provide factual information to counter critiques
When it comes to media organizations, don’t even think of trying to threaten them; you’ll just generate more negative content. Your best bet is to provide clear, factual evidence that they have unjustly tarnished your professional online reputation.
- Contact the organization to identify the editor responsible for the piece.
- Prepare a concise description of the facts for that individual, and politely request that the article be retracted or corrected.
- Persistence is key: Continue with periodic, polite requests until you get a response.
For more information on how to contact newspapers about incorrect or negative content, see this article. How doctors can manage negative content online can be a tricky business, but with persistence you can and will succeed.
Tip 2: Garner support from your patients.
Regardless of the source of your negative content, this tip involves getting your patients behind you. Enough positive physician reviews by patients will outweigh a few negative ones, and they can also help mitigate misleading newspaper articles. By sheer mass of positive feedback, you can fix physician review situations.
Be aware of your bedside manner
Patients mention a doctor’s bedside manner in online forums more than any other factor, so you can do a lot to inspire would-be positive reviewers by making patients feel valued. Work on developing conversational strategies that instill trust without significantly lengthening patient visits. If you need to rush to get through a busy day, explain why. Also give the patient some avenue for seeking further information or asking questions, whether that takes the form of a nurse or physician’s assistant who can tackle their concerns or your promise to respond later via email.
Request patient feedback
Next, encourage patients to write good reviews. Directly asking for praise might turn off some patients, but there are a lot of ways to gently foster positive feedback. You might consider some of the following:
- Quote a few positive reviews, listing the source, on your patient intake forms or information brochures.
- Post a sign in your waiting area saying that you value patient feedback, whether in person, by phone or email or via online forums.
- Link to positive content on your practice’s website.
- Send follow-up emails encouraging patients to provide feedback.
Tip 3: Engage an online reputation management (ORM) service.
If you find yourself in the midst of a negative media storm, the self-help approaches above may not be sufficient to resolve your negative content. Even if the newspaper agrees to correct the article, someone may have reposted the earlier, defamatory version on his or her blog. In this case, you’ll need to enlist professional help.
First, it makes sense to employ a monitoring service that will alert you to any new developments in your Internet reputation. You want to know if someone reposts negative content and also if new, derivative attacks appear in response. This is an important step in how doctors can manage negative content online. Online review management and online reputation management is a time-consuming task, employee a professional service will save you time and most likely money as all the issues that you’re facing are issues that professional services deal with on a daily basis.
Next, you’ll need to create a large body of positive content to outweigh the negative.
Using these tools, even defamatory articles in major newspapers can be made to fade into the distance.