Online Reputation Management in Healthcare

The objectives of each healthcare professional who chooses to establish a presence in the healthcare social media space is going to vary. As such we will have colleagues who are interested in “Inbound” marketing objectives, “Outbound” marketing objectives, personal learning, educational outreach, reputation management, or simply for advertising their services.  In Part I of this series, we explored “Why you should seek to establish your digital media footprint”.   Part II focused on the offline preparation necessary to prepare for a healthcare social media presence.  Meredith Gould was kind enough to elaborate on the sociological perspective of your offline planning in Part IIb.  

I recently surveyed 180 physicians and healthcare professionals  and 25 wrote in that they were interested in reputation management.  Many people are discussing their diseases and their physicians online … it behooves the practicing physician to actively monitor their presence online and manage their online reputation long before a brewing firestorm has the potential to effect the bottom line of their practice.  

Healthcare, Social Media, Information Velocity … and Your Online Reputation

The sheer velocity at which healthcare information travels online today means that establishing a digital presence is rapidly becoming a necessity for healthcare professionals, medical practices, and institutions.

 There are numerous reasons or value propositions for those who endeavor to establish an online healthcare digital presence – – – and each individual will determine their own reason why they feel they want their practice or institution to venture online.

At its heart, digital media is about people, it is about relationships, and it is about communications. A social media presence is about educating, engaging, and growing your audience, improving outcomes, compliance, and potentially improving the bottom line of your practice.

The Pew Internet Research Group, in 2011, showed that nearly 80% of Internet users, or 60% of all adults, have searched online for health information – – – or information about their healthcare providers. This brings to light one of the clearest or most valuable reasons why even the most hesitant physician or medical practice should consider developing a deep online digital presence – – – that reason is online reputation management (ORM). What used to be hidden and buried is now surfacing on social networks. This can be your enemy or your friend. Take advantage and publish and promote your digital brand online.

social media healthcare reputation managementAs the online world becomes more pervasive, reputations are increasingly built and managed online. Online reputation management is the process of monitoring, addressing, or mitigating search engine result pages or mentions on the various social media platforms. There are many online physician grading platforms. Examples of which include vitals, healthgrades, yelp, Angie’s list and RateMD.  Physicians are as visible as anyone on the Internet and that visibility is only going to increase.  What used to be hidden and buried is now surfacing on social networks. This can be your enemy or your friend.

Take advantage and publish and promote your digital brand online.

As a physician you spent years building your professional reputation. This was built through a combination of outcomes, willingness to collaborate, word-of-mouth based on people’s experience, perception, research, teaching, community involvement, and extracurricular activities. There is very little difference between how your reputation is built and managed today as how it was in years gone by – – – except that today the velocity at which information spreads has dramatically changed. A patient in your waiting room, when you are running an hour behind, who possesses a smart phone, can quickly post a scathing review about your practice – – – and if you do not monitor your mentions,  possess an online digital  strategy, that review will rate very high on Google, Bing or other search engine page results.

 Do you know what your patients are saying about you? You should!

Do you know what your recourse is?  Read on …

~ The very first steps to be taken in establishing a proper online reputation management strategy is off-line preparation. This involves setting up a Google alert utilizing search terms that identify your practice, your partners, as well as any other keywords you feel are important. You may be surprised at how often you will receive an alert that your name is now appearing in Google.

While identifying these instances is of significant importance, it is of more significant importance to understand how you can be effective at combating any negative reviews which may exist on page 1 of a Google search in your name. 

~ Create a homebase or foundation online.   Companies such as Symplur°  have seasoned consultants who are proven experts in the healthcare and social media space and have assisted many healthcare professionals initiate, grow and maintain their online presence.    

~ Start a website, a blog, a facebook page, or you can even use a physician profile page on a site like HealthTap, or Avvo.com.   Creating content is not nearly as onerous as it initially seems.   “The 41st patient initiative” has helped many overcome that deep “ugh” you feel when asked for the content necessary to build out your website.     Links drive Google’s SEO juice… so share your links on Twitter or Facebook, and engage your followers.      

~ Having a presence on other well-known social media platforms will also go a long way towards driving down unwanted search results.   If you set up a professional profile on LinkedIn and Google + they will rank higher than a single poor review on the sites referenced previously.  

~ The advice mentioned here is for the average physician who had a bad day and wasn’t able to please 100% of the people 100% of the time.  If you find that a poor review is showing up online on a weekly basis you had better sit down with your group and perform a deep dive introspective review.  If your staff or a member of your group is routinely generating poor reviews, then you will need to deal with that internally prior to pursuing the aforementioned online initiatives.  

~  As hard as it may seem… Dr. Ves Dimov’s advice is relevant. Embrace constructive online criticism. Consider it a 360-degree evaluation.

 

 

 

º I am a consultant and Principal of Symplur 

Learn more about Your Healthcare and Social Media Presence: Reputation Management at Howard J. Luks, MD - Howard J. Luks, MD - Chief of Sports Medicine and Arthroscopy.