Reputation Management

Online reputation management is the process of preventing and repairing threats to your online reputation, but it also involves building a strong positive presence. It is done by tracking what is written online about you and using techniques to address or moderate that information. The goal is to promote positive or neutral content while suppressing negative content. The first step is to know what is being said about you and your practice. Then learn what you can and cannot do about negative reviews and work to build a favorable online presence.

During TexMed2017 in Houston - May 5-6 - George R. Brown Convention Center -
– Kevin Pho, MD, the founder of the popular blog, will present Connect and Be Heard: Make a Difference in Health Care with Social Media. Learn to: 1) determine how social media can facilitate the connection between health professionals and patients; 2) demonstrate how social media can proactively define an online reputation; and 3) recognize how social media can make physicians' voices heard. Dr. Pho's presentation will be held during the opening General Session on Friday afternoon, May 5.
– The Early Career Planning program will include discussion on your online reputation. Learn: 1) interview preparation and your online reputation; 2) marking your practice; 3) debt management and loan consolidation; 4) employment contract negotiations; and 5) medical practice models today. This program will be held Friday morning, May 5 beginning at 7:30 a.m.
See the TexMed2017 web page to register and for more activities and CME opportunities.

Know what is being said:
– Visit popular physician ratings sites and monitor your reviews.
– Conduct web searches on yourself and your practice regularly.
– Monitor yourself by setting up Google Alerts.
– Many review sites include basic information about each physician, such as education, training, specialty, location, office hours, etc., and allow you to submit info for your profile. Make sure it is up-to-date and work to keep it current.
– Many sites also will allow you to flag reviews as inappropriate. See FAQs and other links below for each site's policy.

Some popular ratings sites are:
– CareDash 
Healthcare Reviews 
– Healthgrades 
– RateMDs 
– Vitals 
– WebMD 
– Yelp 
– ZocDoc

Know what you can and cannot do about negative reviews:
So what do you do if a patient slams you and your practice on one of the ratings sites?
– Examiner the complaint closely. Can you determine directly or indirectly who wrote it? Is it really from a patient - or could it be a disgruntled former employee? Are there any details that help you recognize a specific patient or incident?
– Because of health care privacy laws, you cannot respond directly to a patient's online review. Simply acknowledging publicly that the complaining party is a patient breaches confidentiality and violates HIPAA laws.
– If the complaint even hints that the patient is considering legal action, the Texas Medical Liability Trust (TMLT) urges you to contact your attorney and your medical liability insurance carrier. Keep in mind that anything you say in response to the post could come back to haunt you in court.
– In other situations, contact the patient personally to discuss his or her concerns. This should be done in person or over the phone as quickly as possible. Do not use email. Find out exactly why the patient is upset. Just as you would in dealing with other legitimate complaints about your practice, show good customer service and work to resolve the problem. Often this personal contact is enough for the patient to edit or remove the negative review. If you help the patient, he or she may even follow up with a positive posting.
– If you are not sure who the patient is, TMLT provides guidance on how you could reply with a general statement. Again, a direct reply should be avoided. Never respond in anger or when feeling defensive. Refer to the Resources section below for TMLT's guidance.
– Contact the site owner. Some review sites allow you to flag reviews as inappropriate and then may consider removing them. Others will respond to a level-headed note asking them to decide if the post complies with the site's terms of use policy. See the below links for each site's policy.
— CareDash FAQs (click on tab for Healthcare Providers), response guidelines and how to report about for medical professionals 
Healthcare Reviews register to control your reputation
— Healthgrades FAQs 
— RateMDs FAQs (see section 'for doctors') 
— Vitals FAQs and terms of use (see #5 'submissions')
Yelp 'dos and don'ts and responding to reviews 
— ZocDoc FAQs and policy on reviews

To learn more, please see TMLT's "Online Reputation Management for Physicians" (see link below under Resources).

Build a positive online presence:
– Use good customer service principles to prevent a simple misunderstanding from blowing up into a negative posting.
– Establish your own patient satisfaction surveys to monitor how well you and your office are doing.
– "Claim" your profile. Most review sites allow physicians to establish their profiles with photos, a description of the practice, credentials, and other info.
– Since the great majority of your patients are pleased with the care and service they receive, it would be to your advantage to encourage (but not pressure) them to share their experience online.
– Consider a handout or poster that respectfully asks your satisfied patients to visit one of the popular rating sites to post an online review.
– As more positive posts are added, negative reviews then get pushed further down the search engine rankings, meaning they have less impact. Prospective patients surfing for information about you will encounter a more complete and balanced picture of you and your practice.  

For more info and resources on steps you can take to protect your reputation and build a positive online presence:

From Texas Medical Liability Trust (TMLT):
Online Reputation Management for Physicians (from The Report, 2015, Volume 1, page 8). To download as an online course and obtain CME ethics credit, go to TMLT inreach

From TMA Insurance Trust (TMAIT):
How to deal with negative reviews and protect your practice's online reputation

From Texas Medical Association (TMA):
Protect your online reputation 
Guide to responding to Yelp negativity
Seeing Stars-Physicians can help shape their presence on influential online rating sites (Texas Medicine, March 2017)
Reaching patients across the Web (Texas Medicine, Dec 2015)
Get Social: Put Your Practice on the Social Media Map (CME course/publication)
Social Media: Ethical Dilemmas and Boundaries (CME course/publication)

From the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA):
Public Awareness, Perception, and Use of Online Physician Rating Sites

From Kevin Pho, MD: on reputation management

News Articles:
From Modern Healthcare, Reviews of doctors on physician-rating websites are few and far between, Feb 24, 2017
From HCMS Physician Newsletter, Know your online reputation, Feb 2017 issue, page 4
From HCMS Physician Newsletter, Protecting your practice's online reputation, Oct 15, 2015 issue
From HCMS Physician Newsletter, Patients posting on physician review web sites, April 1, 2014 issue