4 Steps to Managing Your Online Physician Profile
May 20, 2019
By Jennifer Larson, contributor
Physicians, do you know what people are saying about you online?
When was the last time you looked yourself up on Medicare’s
Physician Compare website? Or checked out your ratings or reviews on
Healthgrades, Vitals, Zocdoc, Google Reviews, Yelp, or another website that
allows patients to comment on their physicians’ performance?
Online reputation management might not be at the top of your “to do”
list, but it also can’t be ignored. It may be time to start managing your physician
profile more proactively—whether you run your own practice or are employed.
“Most believe that their online reputation doesn’t matter, since many
physicians have existing and returning patients or work on referrals,” said
Henri Isenberg, chief operating officer of ReviewInc,
which offers online reputation management software. “As such,
they do not perceive that their online reputation is having any effect on their
business. But when it comes to getting new patients, a better online reputation
has a huge impact and is worth more than what they can charge their patients.”
2019 report in JAMA Internal
Medicine found that only 23 percent of clinicians have quality information
available about them on the Physician Compare site. Physicians are not required
to submit information to the database—and that may be why many don’t.
The fact is, patients have turned into healthcare consumers who are
likely to look up doctors online before they schedule an appointment. And as
Aaron Clifford, senior vice president of the online reputation marketing
platform Binary Fountain puts it, “Online
reviews can greatly swing a potential customer’s opinion about a brand or
product.” You want your online physician profile to reflect the best you.
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4 Steps to Get Started Managing Your Online Reputation
1. Start with a self-assessment
Maria Todd, PhD, MHA, isn’t surprised that some doctors don’t realize
the importance of paying attention to their online physician profiles. But
Todd, an international healthcare consultant who works with physicians to build
their brand and improve their patients’ experience, has some words of wisdom
for doctors who want to change their attitude.
“First, do a self-assessment,” said Todd. “How seriously do you take
social media? That’s the first ‘to thine own self be true’ moment. How
seriously do you take your own presence on social media? Have you looked
yourself up recently? Because a lot of doctors don’t.”
This assessment can include a review of your online profiles on a
variety of platforms, as well as an assessment of your practice’s website. Then
you can do a gap analysis to determine what you need to achieve to improve and
what it will take to get there, said Todd.
2. Decide on your strategy
Once you have a sense of your current situation, it’s time to start
“The best thing that physicians can do is develop a reputation
management strategy that fully embraces online reviews and addresses them
head-on,” said Clifford.
You have choices as to how to handle this task. You can monitor your
online reputation personally. You can designate someone in your practice to do
it. Or you can hire outside help, which can range from a solo consultant to a
large public relations firm. Your budget and your needs may help you determine
the right choice.
“The key word here is manage—take
control of your reputation,” said Isenberg. “Online reputations don’t just
3. Take a close look at your
The reality is that people take their concerns about offline problems
online, noted Don Silver, chief operating officer of BoardroomPR
in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
“You’ve got to look at the way that you run your business,” Silver
People can and do post complaints about anything ranging from the front
desk staff’s manners, the amount of time they spend waiting to see a doctor,
and the cleanliness of the exam room. They may like their physician, but those
factors are part of their experiences as healthcare consumers. If you’re seeing
this kind of comment pop up in your online reviews, it may be time to address
those concerns so they don’t turn away future patients.
4. Ask for reviews
Want to generate more positive comments on your online profiles? Pay
close attention to patients who seem to be having a positive experience, and
then talk to them about it. Ask them what social media platforms they prefer,
and politely ask if they would consider leaving you a positive review when
they’re happy with the care that you’ve provided.
“Every physician who wants feedback needs to ask for it personally,”
said Todd. “Ask for it, face to face with your patients.”
Another option: make it easy for patients to leave comments when
they’re satisfied. Silver noted that some offices even provide tablets for
happy consumers to leave comments or provide feedback right in the office.
Also, never ignore a comment, good or bad, added Todd. Even if you just respond with a “thank you,”
your patients will know that are you paying attention.
Many experts caution physicians to never argue with a patient or poster
online, or to even acknowledge that a patient was in the office, as that may
violate HIPAA regulations. Isenberg also suggests keeping documentation of
negative posts and your responses.
Physicians who work for a practice or health system may want to work
with their employer to strategize responses to patients and help manage their
But remember: authenticity is key. You should never, ever post
fake reviews. Besides being unethical, it could land you or your
practice in trouble.
If you’re already working on your online reputation and physician
ratings, keep it up. If you’re not, experts would encourage you to get started.
“It’s your reputation, and in today’s world, it’s how people check you
out,” said Silver.
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