Online reputation management: Lessons from ‘Googling’ myself

October 16, 2014

Have you ever “Googled” yourself? If you haven't, try it. The results may surprise you. Simply type your name into Google or another search engine, hit search, and see what pops up. Not all of it is pretty.

Have you ever “Googled” yourself? If you haven't, try it. The results may surprise you. Simply type your name into Google or another search engine, hit search, and see what pops up. Not all of it is pretty.

I first learned this lesson as a resident when one afternoon I was asked to see the chairman. Not surprisingly, he wasn't asking me to join him for a cup of coffee. The university had notified him that a patient I saw in clinic the previous week had reported that I was abusive during an “aggressive” rectal exam. After reviewing my clinic note, all that I remembered about the encounter was that I had found a nodule on his prostate.

To my chairman's credit, he supported me and the issue disappeared, or so I thought. Many months later, a different patient in a different clinic asked me about the incident. At first, I was confused, wondering how this person could know of the encounter. The answer was that he had read about it on vitals.com, a physician rating site.

For those not familiar with them, websites such as vitals.com,healthgrades.com, and numerous others allow patients to anonymously "rate" physicians. Later that day, I read the review that had been posted, and I was shocked. (The review is still online at vitals.com if you want to read it yourself.) Even worse, when I contacted the website to ask if I could respond to the review or have it removed, the answer was no. I was told that unless I could provide documentation that the report was false, vitals.com would not remove the review.

 

Next: "Drown out" comments with positive reviews

 

 

More from Dr. Rosevear

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Clinical hypogonadism and the urologist's role: Primum non nocere

The great prostate cancer 'hoax': A call to arms

 

My only recourse was to attempt to "drown out” that comment with positive reviews. So for the next few years, whenever I had a good encounter with a patient, I asked him or her to write a positive review of me.

More recently, I had another encounter with a patient, this time at my new job in Colorado Springs. He had specifically asked his primary care doctor to refer him to me after reading about me online and liking what he saw. When he told me this, I smiled and asked him which online review site he used, and he replied none. Instead, he was impressed with my time in the Navy (an item included on my bio on our group's website), having served himself many years prior. Lesson learned: Every aspect of your life is easily accessible online and if you don’t monitor it, you are potentially losing patients.

Given my own history with online reputation management, I was thrilled when my group recently took the step to proactively monitor the online reputation of both our physicians and the group by hiring a company to take ownership of these reviews. Admittedly, I was initially unsure what good an online reputation company would do, given my failure with the previous website. But the company representative explained that by helping us develop a system whereby more patients leave comments, negative comments-if any-would carry less weight (basically the same strategy I used earlier). The monthly fee for this service will be easily recouped with just a few new patients.

This is not a new concept to the average small business, but most other physicians I spoke with seemed unaware of the importance of this facet of their business. Cheryl Conner of Forbes.com has published a few interesting articles on this topic that I highly recommend. Most recently, she discussed the importance of managing your online reputation (March 4, 2014), and last year she discussed the dark side of online management (May 5, 2013).

Given the pride that we all take in our work and the great time and effort we spent building our professional reputations, it seems silly not to spend a small amount of time making sure that our online presence appropriately reflects us.

If you have specific questions about the steps my group is taking regarding online reputation management or you find surprising information online about yourself, please contact me. As always, I look forward to receiving comments or questions.UT

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