A guide to online reputation management for doctors

As physicians, you go to great lengths to provide patients with the best possible standard of care. Yet, it’s almost impossible to keep everyone happy. This makes reputation management for doctors crucial, especially in today’s digital world.

In this guide, we’ll take an in-depth look at medical reputation management, why online reputation management for physicians is essential, and provide you with some tips on how best to manage your online reputation. 

What is reputation management for doctors? 

Several elements contribute to building your reputation as a physician. In-person interactions are as important as ever, especially when handling poor outcomes. 

“Bad outcomes are the biggest threat to your reputation, particularly bad outcomes that you handle poorly.  I.E. abandoning the patient, not being honest about complications or mistakes, etc. Most patients will understand if you take the time to work with them, but they will have zero sympathy for you if you don’t demonstrate integrity and empathy.”

Ophthalmology, U.S.

So, what is the solution? Many medical professionals still believe that the best method of reputation management for physicians is simply to provide exceptional in-person service and care.

“The best way to establish a great reputation is through healthy doctor-patient relationships in terms of clinical expertise and bedside manner with your patients, who will spread the word.”

Emergency Medicine, U.S.

However, online reputation management in healthcare is becoming increasingly important, as there are multiple avenues patients can explore to find out more about you. Successful physician reputation management begins with developing a solid understanding of all the online channels you can control and monitor to ensure your online presence remains as accurate and positive as possible. Reputation management may start with patient care, but it certainly doesn’t end there. 

The main components that combine to create your online reputation are:

  • Patient reviews – A recent study revealed that 81% of patients consider online reviews before choosing a physician, and 75% will only consider doctors with a rating of 4 stars or higher.
  • Your website – Often the first stop for patients; building a sleek and professional customer-facing website is an essential element of your physician online reputation management.
  • Your Google profile – Google is the most popular online review platform. Research shows 59% of consumers read Google My Business reviews. Yet, a recent Sermo survey identified that only 19% of physicians have an active profile — leaving 81% of physicians missing out on a highly valuable tool. 
  • Your social media profiles – Being active on social media is essential for effective doctor reputation management. Not only do online interactions build trust, but posting regularly provides opportunities to demonstrate your experience and expertise. The most popular platforms for reaching patients are LinkedIn and Facebook, but Sermo is another great platform where you can share knowledge and answer other physicians’ questions.
  • Your research and publications – Everything you post online, from research papers to blogs, is an opportunity to stand out as an industry expert. 

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Why is reputation management for doctors important?

How often do you look past the first page of results on a Google search? If you’re like most, you rarely make it to the second page. That’s why online reputation management for physicians is so important. You need to make yourself stand out among the top results, and for patients to view positive information about you right on that first page. 

Sometimes things will happen that are beyond your control. You may receive some negative press coverage, have a dissatisfied patient, or get caught up in a lawsuit, for example. You may not be able to do anything about that, but your responses are telling. That’s why you need to be proactive not just in avoiding incidents, but responding to reviews, malpractice accusations, and more, so you can demonstrate your professionalism and protect your reputation in worst-case scenarios.

Of course, reputation management is about more than just tackling negativity online. With proper reputation management techniques, you can also focus on the positive impact of your practice, celebrating the mark you’ve already made on your patients. Moreover, you can create a space to build trust and authority, two things that are key to being a successful physician. 

10 tips for online reputation management for doctors 

Building and maintaining a positive presence is essential in healthcare. Online reputation management has become a marketing strategy in its own right. Yet, it can often be challenging knowing where to start. Here are our top tips on online reputation management for doctors to help you create and uphold the best possible standing. 

10 tips for online reputation management for doctors

1. Assess your current standing

You can’t actively improve your reputation and ratings if you don’t know where you stand. The first step is to check your reviews and comments on sites like Yelp, ZocDoc, WebMD, RateMDs, and Healthgrades. It’s also good practice to Google yourself and check out the first page results so you know what patients will see about you online and what you need to work on.

2. Ask for reviews

Unfortunately, unhappy patients are usually more active in sharing their opinions online than satisfied ones. 

“It’s getting tricky because only the few upset ones will post a negative comment.”

Internal Medicine, U.S.

This can lead to a discrepancy in the number of positive and negative reviews, and could damage your reputation. So, if you know a patient is happy with their experience, encourage them to leave reviews for you on all of the relevant platforms. Over a quarter (27%) of Sermo survey respondents believe that actively requesting feedback from patients is the best way to manage your reputation online.

If you’re not sure who to ask for reviews, you need to think about the strategies you use to assess patient satisfaction. Are you providing regular surveys for patient feedback? Net Promoter Surveys are a great way to measure patient happiness, and one of the best methods of identifying those who are most likely to leave positive and negative reviews. By reaching out to unhappy patients to resolve their issues quickly, you may even prevent poor reviews. In addition, you can maximize positive exposure by approaching the right patients to request feedback and testimonials. 

3. Improve your website

In a Sermo survey of nearly 2,000 medical professionals, 30% thought the best way to manage online physician reputation was through a professional website. In the medical field, the way your website looks, feels, and navigates could be the difference between a patient choosing you or another doctor. Here are our top tips for optimizing your site:

  • Emphasize your skills and experience 
  • Showcase industry awards and achievements
  • Include patient reviews  
  • Add photo and video content 
  • Make it visually appealing and easy to use
  • Follow best practices for inclusive design and website accessibility
  • Make your website easy to navigate
  • Optimize your web copy with relevant keywords to improve your Google ranking
  • Include internal links to other relevant content on your website
  • Get reputable sources to link to your website to further improve search engine optimization (SEO)

4. Claim and verify your Google business listing

Claiming your listing on Google is easy and completely free. Be sure to fill out your profile as completely as possible, including:

  • Services available
  • Contact details (address, phone number, etc.)
  • Opening hours
  • Links to your website
  • Pictures and Logos

Keep your profile updated and engaging by adding regular photos and posts. Set up the messaging function and be sure to respond to every review, regardless of the rating.

5. Build your social media profile

Posting regularly on popular social platforms like Facebook is a good start. However, effective reputation management for doctors also involves being active on professional platforms like LinkedIn. LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional network, allowing you to connect with industry peers, join medical groups, and share your professional accomplishments, expertise, and thoughts to develop a reputation as a leader in your field. 

If the concept of a professional social media and networking platform appeals to you – and it should! – you may also consider joining a social network for doctors like Sermo to expand your footprint within the medical realm. Our dedicated platform for physicians connects you with other industry experts around the globe, allowing you to engage, share your experiences, solve cases, contribute to medical research surveys, find CME opportunities, and get ideas for how to improve your practice from over 1 million verified physicians. Our latest survey revealed that 60% of physicians reach out to colleagues or professional superiors for advice regarding medical reputation management, so there’s no better place to seek tips and advice. 

Sermo members can see the full poll results in the community. Physicians get access for free!

Join now

Already a member? Click here to view the results.

6. Respond to reviews

Patients want to feel heard, and responding to every review is an essential element of reputation management for physicians. Yet, a Sermo survey revealed that 27% of physicians never reply to reviews, and an additional 22% admitted they rarely respond. 

It’s never easy to read poor feedback, but how you respond to negative reviews says a lot about you that potential patients could take positive cues from. By refraining from emotionally-charged or reflexive responses, it’s often possible to neutralize negative reviews and minimize any damage to your reputation.

On receiving positive reviews, thank patients for their kind words. Personalizing your responses is a much better strategy than copy-pasting the same generic reply every time, but be sure not to include information that could violate privacy laws.

Our latest survey revealed that 37% of physicians think doctor-patient confidentiality is the biggest threat to their reputation. So, if you’re ever in doubt or wary of violating HIPAA by responding to a review, always consult your legal department for advice. 

7. Become a thought leader

Building authority and becoming a leader in your field will undoubtedly bolster your reputation. The best way to achieve this is to publish regular articles and blogs that showcase your knowledge, experience, and expertise. Plus, adding regular content to your website will improve your SEO rankings, so it’s also an effective way to drive more traffic through your website, leading to more new patients. 

8. Consider the impact of healthcare professional (HCP) communication 

HCP marketing is typically used to gather information and statistics needed to launch new drugs, prescribe protocols, conduct market research and monitor current disease states.

However, there are other ways to use marketing to healthcare professionals to your advantage – and that’s where Sermo can help. You can reach other physicians where they’re most receptive, and that’s often in unexpected places – target your reputation and improve your online reputation management by posting content to Sermo that can build your leadership authority. With Sermo features, you can help your fellow physicians solve challenging patient cases and share your research. Become a leader among your peers, appeal to new patients, and reap the rewards of a growing practice offline.

9. Build a strong team

Unfortunately, doctors’ visits are rarely something people look forward to. One survey found that 3% of the population has a true iatrophobia (fear of doctors), and there are many more who are nervous about going to the doctor. Patients need warm welcomes and consistent service to reassure them and establish the kind of patient interactions that lead to positive online reviews. Building and retaining a strong, cohesive team trained in customer service is imperative.

Having a knowledgeable team also builds confidence with your patients. If they are secure in the expertise, care, and skills of your staff, they will be that much more likely to keep using you as their doctor. Plus, they’ll be more likely to recommend you to family and friends and get you more patients. 

10. Be proactive!

The online world is dynamic and constantly evolving, so doctors must be proactive in monitoring what people are saying about them. One poor review or news article could have an instant effect on your reputation and a significant impact on your business. So timeliness is key. The easiest way to keep on top of online physician reputation management is to set up Google Alerts so you get a notification any time your name or practice is mentioned. You can make up to 1,000 alerts per account, so be as thorough as possible to ensure maximum vigilance. 

Simplify your medical reputation management with Sermo

When you join Sermo’s medical community, your team grows to over 1 million! With access to healthcare professionals across 150 countries, online reputation management among peers becomes accessible for all physicians. Sermo provides unique opportunities for peer-to-peer collaboration, education, inter-professional knowledge sharing, and social networking. Built by physicians, for physicians, Sermo’s benefits for online reputation management are multiform. By growing your reputation online and sharing it globally with verified physicians, you can become a change-maker in your industry. Just looking for advice on how to be a better practitioner? With connections made on Sermo, you can learn to provide a better overall service and boost your professional reputation simultaneously. 

Sign up today to see the value of Sermo for you.