Reputation Management

Preventing and repairing threats to your online reputation and building a strong positive presence.

They are done by tracking what is written about you and your practice and using techniques to address or moderate that information. The first step is to know what is being said. Then learn what you can and cannot do about negative reviews and work to build a favorable online presence.

Discover and monitor what is being said

  • Visit popular physician ratings websites and monitor your reviews. See the below list for links to some websites.
  • Conduct web searches on yourself and your practice regularly.
  • Monitor yourself by setting up Google Alerts.
  • Review sites usually include basic info about each physician, such as education, training, specialty, location, office hours, etc., and allow you to submit information for your profile. Make sure it is up-to-date and work to keep it current.
Some popular ratings sites are:

Angi
CareDash
Healthcare Reviews
Healthgrades
InsiderPages
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 websites?
  • Examine the review 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?
  • Consider the review impartially. Is it possible there could be some validity to the comments expressed? Could this be an opportunity to make some changes in office procedures or provide some additional staff training?
  • 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 review even hints that the patient is considering legal action, the Texas Medical Liability Trust (TMLT) urges you to contact your medical liability insurance carrier and attorney. 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. Don't use email. Find out exactly why the patient is upset. Just as you would in dealing with other 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 post. If you help the patient, he or she may even follow up with a positive review.
  • 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.
  • Contact the website owner. Some review websites allow you to flag a posting as inappropriate and then may consider removing it. Others may respond to a level-headed note asking them to decide if the post complies with the website's terms of use.
  • Refer to the review websites' policies on creating a physician profile, requesting review or removal of an inappropriate posting, FAQs, etc.
  • TMLT provides some risk management considerations in Practice fined for response to social media review.

Build a positive online presence

  • Use good customer service principles to prevent a simple misunderstanding from blowing up into a negative posting. Make sure your staff alerts you when there is an unhappy patient so you can immediately address the situation.
  • Develop an effective practice website that showcases the most basic information about the practice, that works on any electronic device, is attractive, and is customized with photos of the actual practice setting and staff.
  • Keep in mind that the Texas Medical Board (TMB) has rules (Chapter 164) regarding physician advertising. If you are considering using patient testimonials, review TMA’s guidance on testimonials in advertising.
  • Establish your own patient satisfaction surveys to monitor how well you and your office staff are doing.
  • “Claim your profile" on the rating websites. Most review websites allow physicians to establish their profiles with photos, a description of the practice, credentials, and other information. Upload a high resolution head shot. Spend time on developing your bio. Later, post health care articles to educate patients, which will move your reference up in the search engine.
  • 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 websites to post an online review.
  • As more positive posts are added, negative reviews then get pushed further down the search engine rankings and have less impact. Prospective patients surfing for information will encounter a more complete and balanced picture of you and your practice.
  • As a physician, you can weigh in as a credible source with a professional Facebook page, blog, YouTube presence, or LinkedIn or Twitter account, but you should avoid one-on-one communication with patients via social media for privacy reasons and boundary concerns.
  • For guidance on using social media, advertising, and marketing your practice, see articles in Resources below.

Resources

HCMS:
Physicians and their practice staff must be aware of Boundaries and social media
Everyone goes online now so Take control of your online reputation
Find helpful Tips for building a positive online reputation
Be proactive to Manage your reputation using today's technology 
Discover what is being written so you Know your online reputation

Texas Medical Board (TMB):
TMB rules Chapter 164 on Physician Advertising and the Medical Practice Act Code 164.052 Prohibited Practices by a Physician.

Texas Medical Liability Trust (TMLT):
Consider TMLT's Online Reputation Management for Physicians.

Texas Medical Association (TMA):
TMA provides information on Marketing Your Practice.
As well as guidance from the Social Media Resource Center.
One practice's experience in Fighting Back: Practice Wins Court Battle Over Defamatory Online Reviews.

TMA-endorsed vendor - Marketing and reputation management services:
Officite is a TMA-endorsed member benefit providing services in website design, search engine ranking, online reputation management, social media, and more.

American Medical Association (AMA):
AMA Code of Medical Ethics under Consent, Communication Opinion 2.3.2 Professionalism in the Use of Social Media.
For help to Create a personal online physician brand that works.
Practices find that Web-savvy patients shape physicians' digital do's and don'ts.
AMA also provides Social media guidance for physicians taps timeless principles.
AMA answers Are physicians prohibited from responding to online patient reviews?

Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB):
The FSMB has a report and recommendations on Social Media and Electronic Communications.

Physicians Practice:
Here are 3 ways to boost your practice's online reputation.
Consider Preventing negative reviews through automated patient intake.
Here are Five tips for improving your practice's reputation.
Find that Reputation management and patient engagement work hand in glove.
Discover 4 reasons why and 4 easy ways to stay on top of your online reputation.

Kevin Pho, MD:
www.kevinMD.com/blog/ on Reputation
www.kevinMD.com/blog/ on Social Media