Proactively building a positive Internet presence for your practice can blunt the effect of a few bad reviews.
Fam Pract Manag. 2015 Nov-Dec;22(6):29-32.
Author disclosure: Dr. Gin is cofounder of an online review website.
The Internet has given rise to amazing medical resources for physicians and patients, but it has also created some serious obstacles to doctor-patient relationships. One potential obstacle is your online reputation. In the past, managing one's reputation in the media was primarily the concern of celebrities, politicians, and other famous people. Today, about 30 percent of all online searches are of individuals' names, and everyone has to be concerned about their online reputation.1 For example, employers conduct online searches for information about job candidates, blind dates “Google” each other, and, yes, patients search for information about physicians.2
Many factors influence how a patient selects a doctor, including word of mouth, recommendations from friends, and referrals from other physicians. Social media and online reviews are playing an increasingly important role in physician selection. Social media influences more than 40 percent of consumers' decisions on choosing a physician, according to one study,3 and 59 percent consider physician rating websites “somewhat important” or “very important” when choosing a doctor.4
A poor online reputation can supersede a physician's education and training, at least to potential new patients. Websites that originally were designed to review restaurants are now being used to rank medical professionals using the same one-to-five-star system. Poor ratings can keep a prospective patient from selecting a physician in the same way it might deter a consumer from trying a new restaurant or hair salon, with similar financial results. A Harvard Business School study demonstrated that a one-star increase in the rating of an independent restaurant on a review website led to a 5 percent to 9 percent increase in sales.5
An absence of online reviews and ratings can negatively affect a physician's practice too. A 2014 study showed that 72 percent of people trusted a local business more if they could find at least some positive reviews online.6 Patients might be more likely to select a physician about whom there is at least some information online.
You devoted many years to education and training and have made the well-being of your patients a priority. So when a patient writes a negative online review, it can be damaging both personally and professionally. However, it is best to avoid taking online reviews personally. All doctors will likely have to deal with negative reviews from time to time.
The following strategies will help you respond productively to negative reviews and cultivate a positive online presence:
1. Search for yourself online. The first step to managing your online reputation is monitoring it. Google your name and your practice's name weekly. The results could prove surprising. They might include a combination of negative reviews, misinformation, and positive feedback.
Referencesshow all references
1. Guha RV, Garg A. Disambiguating People in Search. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University; 2004....
2. Fox S, Duggan M. Health Online 2013. Washington, DC: Pew Internet & American Life Project; 2013. http://www.pewinternet.org/2013/01/15/health-online-2013/. Accessed Sept. 15, 2015.
3. Social Media “Likes” Healthcare: From Marketing to Social Business. New York, NY: PricewaterhouseCoopers LLC; 2012. http://www.pwc.com/us/en/health-industries/publications/health-care-social-media.jhtml. Accessed Sept 15, 2015.
4. Hanauer DA, Zheng K, Singer DC, Gebremariam A, Davis MM. Public awareness, perception, and use of online physician rating sites. JAMA. 2014311(7):734–735.
5. Luca M. Reviews, Reputation, and Revenue: The Case of Yelp.com. Boston: Harvard Business School; 2011. http://www.hbs.edu/faculty/Publication%20Files/12-016_0464f20e-35b2-492e-a328-fb14a325f718.pdf. Accessed Sept. 15, 2015.
6. Anderson M. Local consumer review survey 2014. BrightLocal blog. https://www.brightlocal.com/2014/07/01/local-consumer-review-survey-2014/. 1, 2014. Accessed Sept. 15, 2015.
7. The value of Google result positioning. Chitka Inc. website. https://chitika.com/google-positioning-value. June 7, 2013. Accessed Sept. 15, 2015.
8. Reit v. Yelp! Inc. 29 Misc3d 713,716 (Sup Ct, NY County 2010). http://www.courts.state.ny.us/Reporter/3dseries/2010/2010_20362.htm. Accessed Sept. 16, 2015.
9. Gallegos A. Company withdraws contracts controlling online comments by patients. Am Med News. Jan. 2, 2012. http://bit.ly/1OYFYxE. Accessed Sept. 16, 2015.
10. Fung B. Your online reviews could soon gain protections under the law. Here’s how. The Washington Post. Sept. 17, 2015. http://wapo.st/1ij3L0B. Accessed Oct. 6, 2015.
11. Chowney V. Bad reviews improve conversion by 67%. Econsultancy blog. https://econsultancy.com/blog/8638-bad-reviews-improve-conversion-by-67. Jan. 10, 2012. Accessed Sept. 15, 2015.
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