Physician reputation management starts in the office

Let’s face it. Most physicians and health care professionals are too busy. Yet as a doctor myself, I know first hand you want to do as much as you can for your patient, such as making sure prescriptions are being called in, or working in an urgent appointment.

Then why do most doctors ignore what’s being said about them on the internet?

Recently I was chatting with a physician who had an unflattering review on a public forum.  She knew it was there (most providers do) yet chose the defensive tactic, “Oh people don’t believe anything on the internet”.

Unfortunately it is easy to make swipe generalizations but by ignoring the complaint, to most prospective and current patients that if a gripe is posted online, then the review is true! In a recent consumer study, one out of three customers  who have a negative experience take the time to post their opinion online. The fact is you can be one of the most outstanding physicians in the world, but most patients won’t take the time to post something positive, as great customer support is a given.

And that is the issue in a nutshell.  In medicine, we all may have different specialties, but we are all in the customer service business.

Take the time to understand why that is being written.  Can you identify who wrote that?  Don’t forget your ancillary staff is a part of who you are as a doctor and will have more impact than you might think.  Are you and your staff being abrupt to patients? Is your waiting time longer than necessary? Could this have been handled with better communication?

In our experience, most  negative reviews start as a misunderstanding.  Periodically followup with your patients through an email.  Proactively encourage patients to fill out testimonials and online forums. The steps to improving online physician reputation management starts in the office.

Michael Woo-Ming is the founder of, an online medical marketing company focused on helping health care professionals control their internet reputation.

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  • Carolyn Thomas

    According to the website of your company RepMD, you’re in the business of promising doctors that you will, for a price:

    * Remove harmful and negative posting about you and your clinic
    * Monitor rating and review sites
    * Work with your clinic to collect and post positive experiences
    * Help control your listings online

    I applaud your opportunistic entrepreneurial spirit. Talk about cashing in on a growth industry! As a patient who has in fact posted a physician review on an online ‘rate your doc’ site (after increasingly unacceptable one-hour+ wait times for each appointment over many months), I believe I’m correct in assuming that prospective patients of this doctor would NOT be able to read such “harmful and negative” postings if my doc hires your company to “protect” his reputation, right?

    Sounds positively Orwellian, in my opinion.

  • Emm

    Actually, at the present time no one can “remove harmful and negative postings.” Unless they are libelous – and then it requires a court order and quite a bit of time and money.

    What “reputation management” companies can do is create additional links and postings that force negative comments further down the search results. As few people read beyond the first page of search results, this can obviate some of the negative postings to some degree. Savvy consumers know this and read beyond the first few pages to find what’s being “hidden.”

    I have rated doctors – both good and bad. I have also found other patients of my doctors on patient forums – and encouraged them to write reviews as well – both good and bad. It’s important that the ratings be a truthful reflection of one’s personal experience with a physician. I want my reviews to be taken seriously, and flaming accusations are believed by no one. Anyone can have a bad day, or even a lone good day – so any reviews from me reflect more than one interaction with a provider. I’m not sure it makes any difference, but there you are. It’s out there.

    • Carolyn Thomas

      If it’s true that “no one can remove harmful and negative postings”, why do you think the author here promises to do so? That’s lifted word for word from his business website. He doesn’t promise to “hide” the negative posts on page 2 of search results – he promises to “remove” them.

      • Emm

        I have no idea why he’s making these claims. “poetic license?” General marketing principles of obfuscation? Here’s a recent NY Times article that summarizes “reputation management” tools and capabilities:

  • soloFP

    I have noticed that many of my teens, 20 something, and 30 something patients do look at online reviews and search comments in Google. I have mostly positive ratings online. I have researched my colleagues and found that many of the well-respected docs by their colleagues often have poor online reviews, with ratings at the one and two star level.
    When I read through the reviews, it appears that the reviewers are either very positive or very negative. Wait times of more than 10 minutes appear unacceptable. A rude staff gets a negative review. If a doc has more negative than positive reviews, then the doc may lose patients. That said, I figured a negative review from one of my ex patients was made up and posted online. This was a patient who never paid her bills for a car accident and made up most of the review. The consumer should take any review with a grain of salt.
    I have found that half the new patients simply want a doc who is in network on their insurance and who has at least five years of experience post residency. Patients like punctuality and a courteous office staff.
    I have patients report back to me on specialists who are screaming at their staff and screaming in the office while throwing charts. I usually do not refer patients to these specialists, no matter how good these specialists may seem to be. I have noticed that docs often are nice to each other but can be brutal with nurses and families of patients. I also do not refer to these specialists. Also specialists with 1-2 hour wait times no longer get to see my patients.

    • Carolyn Thomas

      Good grief. SoloFP, your description of some of these specialists you refer to is a perfect example of WHY online reviews are so important to patients! “…screaming at their staff and screaming in the office while throwing charts….” or “…1-2 hour wait times…”

      If YOU or your family members were scheduled to see one of these specialists, wouldn’t you like to know in advance that this type of behaviour was being tolerated?

      Yet these very docs would likely be outraged to read their own “one or two star” online reviews!

  • justapatient

    If doctors are concerned about how their patients feel about them, their staff, and the care they received, why not have a questionaire available for the patient to fill out and send back with their thoughts. Have it sent back addressed only for the doctor to read, and give the patient the option to be annonymous. That way the patient can get anything negative off their chest, and only the doctor will see it. You might be surprised to discover that there is a pattern to certain complaints – some of which might be easy fixes. As for the positive comments, well, knowing you’re appreciated is important too.

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