Time was, a doctor worried largely about his reputation in the community he or she worked in and among fellow medical professionals. But with the rise of the Internet, all it takes is punching your name into a search engine to find your practice, what patients think of you, and in some cases, negative results that impugn your medical reputation.
That's why physician reputation management is more important than ever. Here's what you need to know about your reputation as a medical professional.
Word Of Mouth Has Gone Global
Every doctor knows that the best advertising is a happy patient. The good news is that if you've got happy patients, they can take to the Internet and tell their friends, family, and anyone else in the area that you're a great doctor.
Unfortunately, the reverse is also true. Doctors in particular have to be sensitive to their reputation because many patients are nervous about seeing a doctor in the first place. Even a seemingly abusive and unreasonable review is often enough to put patients worried about their health on edge enough to avoid care. By the same token, the Internet has given doctors some powerful tools to both promote their practice and encourage public health. Here's a look at some problems and opportunities doctors have for medical reputation management.
Doctor Reputation Management Starts With What's Being Said
The first thing you should do is run your practice through a few search engines and see what you find. If you turn up any reviews, read them carefully and take notes. Look for consistent patterns of praise and complaint; if a staff member is singled out, or a certain problem is repeated mentioned, take note of that. Even rude and abusive reviews can be of value in that it can be difficult to get patients to open up to their doctors.
Next, of course, is acting on this information.
Address Praise And Complaints
Talk to your staff about what you've found. Take a moment to note that their hard work has paid off and patients have noticed. Then, see what you can do to deal with problems noted in the reviews. Patients will notice that you're making an effort, and it'll be reflected online. Consider it an opportunity to better serve your patients.
Social Media And Doctor Reputation Management
The next step is to start and maintain a social media presence. Social media has largely been seen as the province of ads and silly games involving farming, but it's rapidly evolved into a powerful tool to spread messages and disseminate information.
Social media offers several opportunities for doctors. The first is that it allows you, through links, text, photos and video, to explain your philosophy as a physician. Most potential patients don't understand that two different doctors will approach the same patient in very different ways, depending on the practice and the illness. You'll be able to lay out how you approach medicine, and why, in your own words.
Secondly, social media helps potential patients better get to know you as a person. Doctors can find themselves being intimidating, even when they don't want to be, so social media allows you to show the personal side, a little bit. You shouldn't be posting vacation pictures to your professional social media feed, of course, but you can, for example, post pictures from the birthday party you threw for your head nurse, or take simple questions from patients about home care.
Finally, there's the value of social media as an educator. Doctors often find themselves telling patients the same things, again and again, but on social media, you'll have a way to communicate with patients, and have it stick. Social media's tool for public health and education can't be understated, and if nothing else, a few Facebook posts might just make your job a little easier.
Remove Or Reply To Negative Reviews
The next step is to clean up your negative reviews. Before you start, a word of warning: Sometimes patients will disclose personal information they really shouldn't about their conditions. In light of laws such as HIPAA, it's inadvisable to discuss a patient's medical history, even if it's something they themselves have brought up.
First of all, look up the terms of service on the website hosting the review. Reviews that are abusive, rude, or otherwise excessively profane or obnoxious are generally violating the terms of service, and you should report these violations. It may not remove the review, but it'll put it in the site's crosshairs.
For more reasonable reviews, it behooves a doctor to take a moment and personally respond. If appropriate, apologize for the situation, and discuss what you're doing to make sure it doesn't happen again. Explain why you did what you did and why you chose to take the steps you did. Whatever you do, be polite and even-keeled. This both does wonders for your reputation as a doctor, presenting you as a calm presence, and it forces even the most abusive critic to keep their tone civil lest they be seen as simply rude.
Use Physician Reputation Management To Clean Up Your Search Results
Sometimes a doctor finds terrible search results. It's not uncommon, in an industry where malpractice lawsuits are constantly being filed in greater numbers, for a patient who loses to take their case online. What can you do if this happens?
You can use search engine optimization, or SEO. SEO is the art of monitoring search engines and designing content that will rank highly for specific search terms, such as your name or the name of your practice, and is a large part of physician online reputation management. Using SEO means that you can drive disgruntled former patients down the list of your search results while promoting official biographies, your social media presence, and other web content that more fairly reflects you as a medical professional.
If you're a doctor looking to keep your good reputation online, ReputationDefender can ensure that you've got the right professional image. Don't let the Internet control how you're seen as a doctor, call ReputationDefender today.
Photo credits: stockimages of freedigitalphotos.net, imagerymajestic of freedigitalphotos.net