The role of online reputation management (ORM) for surgeons extends far beyond simple digital housekeeping; it is an integral part of establishing and maintaining a professional image in an increasingly digital-centric healthcare industry. By effectively managing their online reputation, surgeons can ensure that their digital footprint mirrors the excellence and integrity of their medical practice.
Online reputation management involves a series of strategic steps designed to enhance and protect one’s online image. Effective reputation management strategies for surgeons include:
- Claiming all medical profiles and business listings,
- Populating all professional medical profiles with provider information,
- Claiming and bolstering social media accounts,
- Building a website for yourself or your practice,
- Creating educational and constructive medical content,
- Engaging in PR outreach and writing for medical sites and publications,
- Providing impeccable patient services and care,
- Encouraging feedback from satisfied patients, and
- Setting up alerts to track mentions online.
At Minc Law, we understand the unique challenges medical professionals face when it comes to ORM and consumer reviews. We have extensive experience assisting doctors and other medical professionals in navigating the delicate balance between patient privacy and responding to online feedback. We recognize that reviews can range from genuine patient experiences to unfounded allegations driven by ulterior motives.
Our approach is tailored to address each situation with the urgency and sensitivity it deserves, ensuring that the online portrayal of your practice accurately reflects your dedication to medical excellence.
In this article, we will provide practical tips and expert strategies to enhance and protect your digital presence and professional reputation.
Why is Online Reputation Management Important For Surgeons?
A surgeon’s online presence holds considerable weight in shaping their professional image and influencing patient decisions. Negative or misleading information on digital platforms can significantly tarnish a surgeon’s reputation, potentially leading to a decline in patient trust and professional opportunities.
Online reputation management (ORM) encompasses a range of practices to monitor, influence, and improve how a surgeon is perceived online. This process includes managing online reviews and social media, and ensuring an accurate representation of their skills and accomplishments across all digital touchpoints.
Defining Medical Reputation Management
Medical reputation management is a specialized area of ORM, focusing specifically on healthcare professionals like surgeons. It involves a strategic approach to shaping and maintaining a surgeon’s digital footprint in a manner that reflects their professional integrity and expertise. Key components include vigilant monitoring and prompt responses to online reviews, proactive management of social media profiles, and ensuring the accuracy of information on healthcare-related websites and platforms.
Sites such as Healthgrades and RateMDs, which frequently rank highly in search engine results, are pivotal in establishing a surgeon’s online presence. The information these sites present to potential patients significantly influences their perception of a surgeon. Overlooking these critical elements can jeopardize a surgeon’s reputation, underlining the importance of consistent and active online engagement.
Benefits For Surgeons Who Take Charge of Their Online Reputations
Surgeons who proactively manage their online reputations reap considerable benefits, each contributing to their professional success and patient relations.
Here are some key advantages broken down:
- Attracting New Patients: With 72% of patients beginning their search for a new doctor online, a strong online reputation marked by positive reviews can significantly increase a surgeon’s visibility. A robust online presence often translates into attracting new patients.
- Enhancing Trust and Credibility: Considering that 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, positive online feedback, and professional digital interactions are vital. A well-managed online presence builds trust with potential patients and reinforces a surgeon’s credibility, showcasing their commitment to patient care.
- Mitigating Negative Feedback: Effective reputation management involves addressing negative reviews constructively. This not only minimizes their impact but also demonstrates the surgeon’s dedication to patient satisfaction and continuous improvement, which can transform a negative scenario into a positive testament to their professionalism.
- Building a Strong Personal Brand: Surgeons can establish a distinct personal brand by actively shaping their online narrative. This branding positions them as experts in their field, making them the preferred choice for patients seeking specialized surgical care.
- Leveraging Patient Feedback: Encouraging patients to share positive experiences and reviews can significantly outweigh any negative feedback. This approach also provides valuable insights into patient needs and expectations, guiding further improvements in care and service.
9 Online Reputation Management Strategies For Surgeons
For surgeons, maintaining a strong and positive online reputation is not just beneficial; it is essential. In an era where patients frequently turn to the internet for healthcare information, the right ORM strategies can greatly enhance a surgeon’s professional image and credibility.
Claim All Medical Profiles & Business Listings
Surgeons, whether operating as solo practitioners or as part of a hospital staff, must recognize their practice as a brand in its own right. Claiming and optimizing all relevant medical profiles and business listings is a fundamental step in managing this brand effectively.
Given the widespread use of Google to search for medical services, it is crucial for surgeons to have an optimized Google Business Profile. This profile should be meticulously updated to reflect accurate and current information about their practice.
Surgeons should claim their profiles on major medical review and information sites like Healthgrades, Vitals, WebMD, RealSelf, and Yelp. Each platform offers a unique opportunity to reach potential patients and showcase their services.
By taking control of these digital assets, surgeons can significantly enhance their online presence, providing a professional image to current and potential patients.
Populate All Professional Medical Profiles With Provider Information
It is imperative for surgeons to maintain their profiles on medical review sites. These profiles must be kept current and comprehensive, with detailed information about the surgeon’s qualifications, experience, areas of specialty, and any additional pertinent details.
In addition to textual information, these profiles should feature photographs of the practice or office, providing a visual insight into the environment where patients will be treated. Information on how to reach the practice, including directions or maps, is also crucial. This level of detail not only aids in logistical planning for potential patients but also contributes to building a sense of familiarity and trust even before the first appointment.
Claim & Bolster Social Media Accounts
Claiming and actively using social media is a powerful strategy for surgeons looking to establish a more personable online presence. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram offer unique opportunities to connect with potential patients and engage with the wider community. By sharing relevant content, surgeons can establish a rapport with their audience.
However, it is important to be aware of the risks associated with social media in a professional capacity. Inappropriate use of social media can damage your personal brand, cross professional boundaries with patients, and potentially breach patient confidentiality. You must also be mindful of your hospital or practice’s social media policies.
Build a Website For Yourself or Practice
A professional website is one of the most effective components of ORM. A well-designed website should be user-friendly and mobile-responsive, ensuring accessibility for all potential patients. It should also offer detailed information about the services provided, the surgeon’s qualifications, areas of expertise, and other relevant aspects of the practice.
The website acts as an online storefront that sets the tone for potential patients and mirrors the quality of service provided. To maximize your website’s impact, consider the following strategies:
- Optimize for Search Engine Visibility: Obtain backlinks from authoritative sources and use relevant keywords to boost the website’s search engine optimization (SEO).
- Showcase Expertise and Achievements: Highlight any awards, recognition, or notable achievements on the website.
- Feature Positive Reviews: Displaying positive reviews and testimonials can influence prospective patients’ decisions.
- Use Multimedia Content: Incorporate photos and videos to create an engaging and informative user experience.
- Improve User Experience: Ensure the website is accessible to all users, including those with disabilities.
- Provide Related Content: Offer links to related content within the website, such as blog posts, articles, and patient resources. This helps educate patients and keeps them engaged on the site.
By implementing these strategies, your website becomes a dynamic tool, effectively showcasing your expertise, building trust with potential patients, and ultimately influencing their choice of healthcare provider.
Create Educational & Constructive Medical Content (Including YouTube)
Regularly adding relevant educational content to your website can engage patients and enhance your online visibility and credibility.
Incorporating a variety of content, such as blog posts, videos, and podcasts, can cater to different audience preferences. It is important that this content is not only informative and engaging but also optimized for search engines. This approach ensures the information is accessible and appealing to a broader range of patients.
Surgeons can also draw inspiration from popular medical YouTubers like Doctor Mike and Doctor Youn, who have effectively used these platforms to educate and engage with the public. These influencers demonstrate how leveraging digital platforms can significantly enhance a surgeon’s reputation and reach.
Engage in PR Outreach and Write For Medical Publications
Engaging in proactive PR outreach and contributing to medical publications can enhance your online reputation and expand your professional reach. This approach involves creating and sharing relevant, timely content on platforms aside from your personal blog or website.
Contributing to external sites can bury negative reviews or press coverage under a pile of positive, authoritative content. This can be facilitated through partnerships with medical sites that accept guest submissions.
Your articles should focus on topics that highlight your knowledge and experience. As part of your guest posting efforts, it is wise to secure backlinks to your website or social media profiles. These backlinks not only drive traffic but also improve the SEO ranking of your personal site.
Engaging in PR campaigns, including press releases and interviews, is another effective way to manage and enhance your online reputation. These activities can lead to increased visibility in both local and broader media.
Provide Impeccable Patient Services & Care
Impeccable patient care is the foundation of a positive reputation. This extends far beyond the technical aspects of surgical care, encompassing every interaction and communication with patients.
Here are some proactive strategies to enhance your patient services:
- Implement efficient scheduling and time management practices,
- Maintain empathetic and respectful communication,
- Explain treatments and associated risks in detail,
- When dealing with an upset patient, address their concerns with kindness, and
- Follow up promptly after appointments.
Focusing on these aspects of patient care and communication can foster a positive perception among patients, which is often reflected in their reviews.
Encourage Feedback From Satisfied Patients
To strengthen your online reputation, motivate happy patients to share their positive experiences online. Promptly and professionally address every review, positive or negative, to show that you value patient feedback.
Set Up Alerts to Track Mentions Online
Use tools like Google Alerts to track online mentions and monitor your digital reputation. These alerts provide timely notifications whenever a name or keyword is mentioned online. This enables you to stay informed about the conversations surrounding your brand and respond promptly to any negative sentiment.
Additionally, surgeons can consider partnering with a digital risk monitoring service. Firms like Minc Law offer Digital Risk Protection (DRP) solutions that monitor and address reputational threats in real-time.
Best Practices For Dealing With Fake Medical Reviews
For any professional, it is critical to address fake reviews promptly. Sometimes, these reviews contain malicious accusations, such as claims of malpractice, negligence, or other unlawful behaviors, which demand immediate attention.
Whether these reviews are blatantly false or damagingly misleading, it is imperative to take swift and appropriate action to address and, if possible, remove them to safeguard their professional integrity and patient trust.
Keep HIPAA Obligations in Mind
Navigating patient reviews is a balancing act, considering Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) obligations. When interacting in the online sphere, it is necessary to adhere to these guidelines to ensure patient confidentiality and maintain professional standards:
- Avoid Personal Identifiers: Never use a patient’s name or confirm their visit in public responses, even if they have identified themselves in their review.
- Generalize Responses: Refrain from sharing specific details about a patient’s visit or treatment. Keep responses general and focused on policies rather than individual cases.
- Maintain Professional Tone: Avoid blaming the patient or using defensive language when addressing reviews. Apologize sincerely and express empathy in your responses.
- Opt for Private Communication: If feasible, address the patient’s concerns privately via phone or in person. This approach is often more effective and helps maintain the necessary confidentiality.
By keeping these key points in mind, you can respond to online reviews in a manner that respects patient privacy, complies with HIPAA regulations, and upholds your professional reputation.
For further reading, please see our comprehensive guide explaining how medical professionals can respond to online reviews.
Learn to Identify Fake Medical Reviews
Distinguishing genuine patient concerns from false or malicious reviews helps address them appropriately. Here are some red flags that may indicate a review is fake:
- The review does not match any patient records,
- The reviewer’s account was newly created or has a pattern of leaving only negative reviews,
- The username is suspicious, overly generic, or sarcastic, or
- The review contains extreme language, unnecessary personal attacks, or irrelevant details.
For further reading, please see our resource explaining ‘How to Spot Fake Online Reviews’.
Preserve Evidence of Fake Reviews
When confronted with fake reviews, it is important to document and save the evidence. Surgeons should take screenshots of the reviews, record the URLs of the web pages where the reviews are posted, and, if possible, timestamp the screenshots to create a clear timeline of events.
In situations where the damage is severe, it may be prudent to seek advice from a defamation attorney to explore possible legal actions.
Request the Reviewer Remove the Review
One effective approach to negative reviews involves contacting the reviewer directly, especially if they are a known patient. Many patients post reviews because they want their concerns to be acknowledged.
A private phone call to the unsatisfied patient can be a major step towards resolving the issue. This direct interaction demonstrates a commitment to patient satisfaction and can often lead the patient to reconsider their review.
For further reading, please see our comprehensive guide, ‘Reputation Management For Doctors’.
Flag & Report the Review For Platform Violations
Review platforms typically have guidelines prohibiting users from posting fake reviews, particularly if they were never actual patients. If you encounter a review that you believe violates the Terms of Service (ToS) of a review website or platform, it is wise to flag and report the review.
However, it is crucial to remain mindful of HIPAA regulations during this process. When reporting a review, especially if the reviewer was an actual patient, surgeons must not identify them or share any confidential information with the platform’s moderators.
Navigating a platform’s Terms of Service, along with HIPAA concerns, can be complex. In such cases, it is advisable to seek professional assistance from an attorney familiar with these matters. Their legal guidance can ensure that your actions are compliant with both platform policies and patient privacy laws.
Utilize Reputation Management Services
Using professional ORM services can be a highly effective strategy when dealing with negative reviews. While the optimal solution is often to remove negative reviews, ORM services offer a comprehensive approach to managing and improving your online footprint.
These services employ a combination of marketing, SEO, and PR strategies to influence and shape one’s digital identity. ORM is a continuous commitment, both financially and in terms of time, as the creation of positive online content is ongoing.
By actively sharing positive content and claiming and optimizing online profiles, ORM services can help mitigate the impact of negative content. Additionally, these services tend to provide ongoing monitoring, enabling surgeons to stay ahead of potential issues.
To select an ethical and effective online reputation management provider, please see our resources explaining what to look for in an online reputation management company and an online reputation management consultant.
Work With an Experienced Attorney to Secure Removal
In certain situations, particularly when dealing with allegations like malpractice, it may be necessary to work with an experienced attorney to secure the removal of a review. Yet, the decision to pursue legal action should be made on a case-by-case basis. For instance, if you have an overwhelming number of positive reviews and only a single negative one, legal action might not be necessary or beneficial.
However, when accusations in a review are severe enough to harm your professional reputation, it is worth consulting a lawyer. As internet defamation attorneys handle online defamation, content removal, and harassment, they are typically a great choice as your online reputation expert.
In such cases, a defamation lawsuit could be a viable option. A defamation lawsuit can also be an effective tool to uncover the identity of anonymous posters if there is difficulty determining who is behind the negative reviews.
“I am so happy with the first class service I received. Thank you for helping me re-claim my good name!”
February 5, 2023
At Minc Law, we offer customized online reputation management solutions for medical and healthcare providers. Reach out to schedule your initial, no-obligation consultation by calling us at (216) 373-7706, speaking with a Chat representative, or filling out our online contact form.