Physician reputation management in the age of social media

What is the physician’s most precious possession?  Some might answer that it is his patients.

Others might respond it is the training and education that the physician has obtained to practice his (or her’s) craft.

But the real answer is that it’s the physician’s reputation.

Doctors live and die by their reputations.  Reputations take years to build but are so fragile that they can crumble quickly.  It may take months or years to erect a building which a bulldozer can take down in a day.  In this era of online communications and social media, our reputations can be attacked in a nanosecond.  Using that building metaphor, it is like imploding a building with a stick of dynamite and leveling it to the ground in a pile of rubble in seconds.

It is likely that a patient, or even a fellow physician, can target your practice using the Internet and especially with the ease of using social media can wreck havoc on your reputation and on your practice.

What can you do to protect yourself?  As physicians we live and die by our reputations.  We spend our whole professional lives creating and protecting our reputations.  In the past it was negative word of mouth that was our main concern.

It is a known marketing and public relations dictum that a satisfied patient/customer/client tells 3-5 people about a positive experience; whereas a patient with a negative experience with the doctor or the practice is likely to tell 10-20 others.  The Internet and social media has changed that.  Now a person with gripe, a negative comment can make themselves “heard” in just moments and can get their negative thoughts out to thousands of viewers in just minutes.  What is a doctor to do when there are negative or defamatory comments made on the Internet?

I electronically attended Dr. Kevin Pho’s keynote presentation to the Texas Medical Association on social media.  A member of the audience asked, “What is a doctor to do when there are negative comments made on medical review sites?”  Dr. Pho suggested that doctors make an effort to counter-balance the negative comments with positive comments.  I have found a very effective method of generating positive comments that I use on my website and also on medical review sites.

It is quite common for a patient to make a nice comment about my staff or about the care they received in my office when I am with the patient in the exam room.  I ask the patient if I might include their comment on my website as a testimonial.  Nearly every patient concurs and I have a release form (see below) in the exam room and I write out exactly what the patient said and have them sign it, which gives me permission to use their positive comments on my website.

This is an effective, yet ethical, method of generating positive comments about you and your practice.

Sample release form:

I, [patient's name], authorize Dr. Neil Baum to use my testimonial on his website, www.neilbaum.com

Signed,

[patient's name]

Neil Baum is a urologist at Touro Infirmary and author of Marketing Your Clinical Practices: Ethically, Effectively, Economically. He can be reached at his self-titled site, Neil Baum, MDor on Facebook and Twitter.

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