Discover and monitor what is being said
- Visit popular physician ratings websites and monitor your reviews.
- 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:
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. Do not 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. Refer to the Resources section below for TMLT's guidance.
- Refer to the Resources section below for the HCMS Physician Profiling/Reputation Websites chart with links to several websites' policies on creating a physician profile, requesting review or removal of an inappropriate posting, FAQs, etc.
- To learn more, see the link to TMLT’s Online Reputation Management for Physicians under the Resources section below.
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, meaning they 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 and information on marketing your practice, see links under Resources below.
Physician Profiling/Reputation Websites chart - Info and links to several websites' policies for creating and updating a physician profile, requesting review or removal of an inappropriate posting, FAQs, and more.
Boundaries and social media (June 2019 newsletter)
Take control of your online reputation (June 2018 newsletter)
Tips for building a positive online reputation (Oct 2017 newsletter)
Manage your reputation using today's technology (June 2017 newsletter)
Know your online reputation (Feb 2017)
Rules on Physician Advertising Chapter 164 and the Medical Practice Act Prohibited Practices by a Physician Code 164.052.
Online Reputation Management for Physicians from TMLT's The Reporter, Volume 1 2015, beginning on page 8.
Marketing Your Practice
Social Media Resource Center
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
Create a personal online physician brand that works
Web-savvy patients shape physicians' digital do's and don'ts
Social media guidance for physicians taps timeless principles
Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB):
Social Media and Electronic Communications - Report and Recommendations
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
American College of Physicians:
How to Improve Patient Perception