This is the fourth in a set of posts designed to educate physicians on how their names are being displayed. The education should lead to an evaluation of their current situation and motivation for them to execute basic activities to manage their reputation on-line. Physician Google Thyself Webinar Video on Blip.TV
So now you might be asking, “What if someone gives me a low rating or posts an unfavorable review?”
In Barb’s recent post about crisis communications she outlines the importance of actions over words and considering we are talking about health care, it couldn’t be more true.
Is a single bad review a crisis? Let’s put it into perspective using the two primary tenants of social media–authenticity and transparency.
Is every patient’s symptom/condition easy to treat? Are you a perfect fit for every patient? No, of course not. If someone decides that their experience with your practice was not perfect and they decide to tell the world, that’s their first amendment choice (note: they are breaking their confidentiality on the Internet, not a very smart move from a privacy perspective). Please don’t let one disgruntled patient post discourage you from actively managing your reputation.
If they have a legitimate issue with their experience especially on a “logistical” level (e.g. appointment SNAFU, staff having an off day) then it is worth engaging, privately. If it is a post in an open review field, you could, with full transparency, you post something like:
“Thank you for your honest feedback. Our practice would like to resolve your issue and because of HIPAA privacy laws we are bound to do it privately, please contact XYZ person at our office ASAP. We look forward to hearing from you and correcting our processes to better serve all our patients.”
Getting more perspectives–providing lots of good ratings and reviews. Ask your patients to engage on the directories, forums, social networks that have an accurate profile of you (all the stuff you did in Part III). I’d recommend printing a list of rating and review services on the back of your practice business card and handing to especially satisfied patients. Here’s an example from Dr. Score.** Here’s a post by physician blogger KevinMD from January 2010 which echos this strategy.
A Special Note About Managing Social Media Platforms:
This is an exploding issue that is worth addressing. I will again reference this excellent blog post from Eric T. Berkman from Mass Medical Law Report October 19, 2009. Their first recommendation is to not “friend” patients. I will add by saying if you want to keep a personal presence on social media platforms do so with a strict policy to not connect with patients. You can respond to anyone with a simple message:
“Thank you for your invitation. I value all my relationships highly especially those with patients who have selected me as their health care provider. Due to HIPAA privacy laws, I have decided to decline friend invitations from all my patients. Thank you for understanding.”
Note: setting up a profile for your practice is a good idea if you have a social media strategy as part of your practice marketing plan, but that’s a topic for another day.
Professional networks are very important. Health care professional forums that allow you to keep up with classmates and colleagues is mission critical for managing any successful career. Linked In is one of the most popular business social networks. Although I am inclined to recommend extending the above policy to patients, I recognize that many patients may start out as professionals in your career network and vice versa. In those cases, I believe as long as you can keep any on-line conversation strictly away from their personal health care issues then linking to them is likely to be a good idea. If someone unintentionally crosses the line, then use a variation of the above paragraph as a gentle reminder:
“Nice to hear from you. I value all my relationships highly especially those with patients who have selected me as their provider. Due to HIPAA privacy laws, I can not answer your question here. Please contact my office at xxx-xxxx and make an appointment so we can address your health care issue. Thank you for understanding.”
- You already have a presence on the Internet and you have some control on how you are displayed.
- You are motivated to be proactive in increasing traffic to your practice website (or are now convinced you need a site or make improvements).
- You’ve made some policy decisions on how to manage social media invitations.
- You are not afraid if something bad gets posted because you will a) know about it and b) have a process for managing the situation.
Providing quality primary or specialty health care services has always been competitive and health care reform will make it even more so in the coming years. I hope this series has provided you with some knowledge, motivation and peace of mind to efficiently and effectively manage your on-line reputation.
Next: March 2011 Update
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*Thanks Elizabeth Cooney for the great post title (July 08); great minds think alike.
**Disclosure: There are several customer satisfaction survey tools available and www.DrScore.com is one I am familiar with from my corporate work. In 2007 I constructed a pilot corporate program to measure customer satisfaction amongst a subset of customers in a given specialty. The survey instrument is available in English and Spanish and recently was recognized by ARHQ as a valid tool in measuring patient satisfaction. Purchasing reports is very affordable at $149 per physician per year.