It has been said that your reputation takes a lifetime to build and five minutes to ruin.
This is especially true for physicians, who now have to worry about their patients, their practices and what people are saying about them on social media and websites devoted entirely to reviews of healthcare professionals.
Unfortunately, many of the reviews are written by people who use sometimes arbitrary metrics to mete out endorsements, opinions, criticisms and critiques. The reviews often lack data, proof and substance.
And they matter.
According to research conducted by the National Research Corporation, 47 percent of consumers say they pay attention to your online physician reputation. To make matters worse, a whopping 80 percent of consumers say they trust online reviews, which are often written anonymously, as much as they do personal recommendations.
That’s why it’s important to proactively manage your online physician reputation. It will take strategy, persistence and some thick skin–but it will be worth it. Here five ways to manage your online physician reputation with integrity and class:
1) Own your identity
Most physician review websites allow doctors to register and claim their identities. This allows you to provide factual information about your practice, including your address, office hours and contact information. Once the site has verified your information, you may also be able to add marketing materials such as photos, videos and information about services.
It also allows you to respond–either publicly or privately–to the people who post reviews about you. The ability to respond to reviews can be a powerful tool to help protect your online physician reputation.
In the online world of public relations, silence in the face of criticism equates to guilt or indifference. When someone posts a negative review about you (justified or not), it’s important to respond.
The key to responding effectively is to remember that you are not talking to the person who wrote the review. You are responding so that others will see that you are a caring, engaged physician who respects your patients.
3) Keep it general
When responding to online criticism, it’s important to keep the information you share general. Resist the urge to set the record straight about individual case. Instead, focus on your practices, policies and commitment to ensuring that patients have a good experience when they visit you.
If someone has a personal situation that must be addressed, ask them to directly contact someone from your practice.
4) Be proactive
It is a fact of life that people who are dissatisfied with something are more likely to make their feelings public. This is often the case with physician review websites, which is why it’s a good idea to be proactive in seeking positive reviews.
Ask patients who are happy with their care to share their experiences online. A great way to do this is to email patients online satisfaction surveys. Not only will you be able to identify patients who might be willing to share their positive experiences, but you may also be able to identify people who might post negative reviews–and connect with them before they do.
5) Accept the inevitable
You are bound to receive negative reviews. It is an inevitable truth, and it is not the end of the world–especially if you stay calm, develop thick skin and manage the issues.
Don’t respond when you are angry. Instead, show you care, put the issue into context, outline any action you plan to take and then move on.
Don’t let the five minutes it takes to respond angrily to a review ruin the reputation you’ve spent a lifetime building.
Elliot Health System is proud of our reputation. Would you like to join us?
They are posted on websites with names like “Vitals,” “Zocdoc” and “RateMDs.com.” They present content written by anonymous individuals who may or may not have any true knowledge about the topics on which they write. And they are widely read by patients across the country and likely in your hometown as well.
They are online physician reviews–and they may affect both your reputation and livelihood.
But, should you care about them?
That’s the question physicians across the country have been asking themselves lately. As with anything related to the internet, the answer depends on an array of variables: Who’s writing the reviews? How credible are they? Is anyone actually reading them?
At the end of the day, physicians probably shouldn’t care too much about online reviews. Here’s why:
Most patients aren’t reading them
Everyone is online these days–and they’re online nearly all the time. The proliferation of smartphones and tablets has made it easier than ever for people to find nearly immediate information about nearly anything.
Thankfully, most people aren’t searching for online medical reviews.
According to a 2014 study published in JAMA, fewer than one-fifth of people surveyed have used the internet to search for online medical reviews. People will look for movie and restaurant reviews, but when it comes to seeking out information about their physicians, most don’t look for online reviews.
Most patients are skeptical of online reviews
It’s a fact: Online medical reviews are largely unreliable. Physicians know it. Studies have said as much. And the public is largely aware of it, too.
Most internet users are savvy enough to understand that most people are entirely unqualified to accurately rate the quality of care they are receiving from their doctors. They understand that a lot of people use online reviews as a way to punish people who don’t give them the service they think they deserve–whether they feel wronged by a slow waitress or a doctor who won’t prescribe antibiotics for a virus.
Sure, they’ll read the reviews, but what they’re looking for is information about bed-side mannerisms, cleanliness of the clinic and whether or not the reviewer had a good overall experience. But they won’t likely make a decision about a doctor’s overall medical expertise based on an online review.
You can manipulate them
According to a paper published on the U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health website, the quality of online medical reviews doesn’t matter as much as the quantity.
The paper explains that a randomized experiment found that, in general, patients had higher opinions of physicians who had more online reviews than they did about physicians with fewer online reviews.
This demonstrates how little patients care about the actual content of the reviews–and how easy it would be for physicians to manipulate the reviews in their favor. If quantity matters more than quality, then the reviews are basically useless, and all doctors need to do to enhance and protect their reputations is encourage patients to write more reviews.
And while the reviews apparently don’t even need to be positive, most patients who are writing reviews at your request will be inclined to write nice things about you. So manipulating the system works for physicians on both levels.
So don’t sweat online medical reviews. They are a new reality for nearly every physician, but they are likely not worth a lot of worry because few patients are reading them, they are widely viewed as unreliable and you can easily manipulate them in your favor.
Elliot Health System cares about their patients and their physicians. Do you want to be a part of EHS?