Addressing comments on your medical practice’s Facebook page

Does your medical practice allow anybody to post links and comments on your Facebook page?

The short answer is yes. We do. Why? Because we think allowing patient to post links and commenting on our practice’s Facebook page helps us achieve these four things:

1. It encourages communication.
2. It allows us to address issues that we would otherwise have a hard time addressing.
3. Other patients will benefit by reading the discussions.
4. We get an opportunity to show how we handle different situations.

Not long ago, we had a parent post a link to our practice Facebook page. The link was to a questionable blog post. The blog post discussed how a lead scientist at Merck claimed that the HPV vaccine was essentially ineffective. The parent wanted to know if we had any thoughts as a practice on the blog post and the claims it made.

Had we not allowed comments and or links on our Facebook page, we would have not known about these claims regarding the HPV vaccine or the blog post. But now, not only did we learn about these claims, we also had a chance to address it and set the record straight.

Without the opportunity to post the link, the mom would have read it, made up her mind, and probably would have not mentioned it again. Or worse yet, told a bunch of her friends.

But now, she can say, I asked my pediatrician about this blog post I found and this is what she had to say and she can reference our response.

Another advantage of letting this parent post a link is that other parents got to learn about this particular blog’s incorrect facts. Nobody else would have known that this is an issue.

But we had an opportunity to address a larger crowd (conceivably our most loyal patients that value our practice) by dispelling the claims and why parents should be careful when reading stuff like this online. In other words, it gives us a chance to educate beyond our four little walls.

If another parent hears the same claim about the HPV from someone, hopefully, they will reference our Facebook page (and this blog post that I wrote on Survivor Pediatrics) and perhaps say, “… yeah I heard about that on my pediatrician’s Facebook page and she basically said that the scientist was misquoted and that there is overwhelming evidence that the vaccine safe,” which is what we said in our response.

It is about being social

Social media is about having “conversations.” It isn’t about a one way communication where the community is not allowed to participate. Fundamentally, the comments section is what separates the old Internet from the new Web 2.0 Internet.

If I were to delete the comment, or ignore it, what does that say about us? What does that say to parents that are checking us out and are deciding if we are the right practice for them?

But what if a patient says something bad about my practice or post a link I don’t approve of?

One bad review should not bring one’s reputation down if you’ve done a good job of establishing a strong online presence. Thus you shouldn’t be fearful of one or two patients.

Also, just because a practice doesn’t let parents post something on their Facebook page doesn’t mean parents can’t go to Yelp or HealthGrades and write something bad about you. People are going to say bad things about you (and me) anyway, so why is that an issue?

But here is the kicker, on Yelp, or any other site, we can’t comment, defend, challenge or do anything with a parent’s comment. But on our Facebook page, we can invite the parent to discuss the issue.

Not only that, other patients will see how open you are to discuss, improve, change, or state your reasons regarding the problem. In other words, we are able to have a little control on how the matter is handled.

Lastly, I would add that all it takes is 3 or 4 great reviews of your practice from patients to downplay the one “bad” review that you got. But if you don’t allow those “fans” to comment, nobody will ever know how great of a practice you are.

So what is the recommendation?

Open up the Facebook page for comments and links. If something bad were to show up, delete it. But I would leave it up there and address it professionally. Most people will respect that.

Brandon Betancourt manages a pediatric practice and blogs at Pediatric Inc.

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