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Reputation Management
Posted Friday, March 15, 2013

If you haven’t started an Internet search of your name, medical practice or other providers in your vein practice lately, it may be a good idea to do it now. It is an important part of marketing your vein practice to be aware of what you look like online to your prospective patients and referral physicians. You can be certain that many of your prospective patients will have looked online to see what is being said about you and some of it may come as a surprise!

After a potential patient finds your vein practice online, the next thing that they are likely to do before making an appointment or scheduling a consultation is to research your online reputation. If you aren’t aware of what is being said online about your practice it may be costing you valuable revenue. It can only take one or two bad comments on the Internet about you to send potential patients to your competitors. It doesn’t even necessarily have to be a bad review from a patient as your competitors can post negative comments about you or your practice just as easily. Reviews and comments online about you or your vein practice don’t even have to be true to cause damage to your online reputation.

Google Places now archives reviews for all of the businesses that it locates and many doctors are not even aware that their Google Places business page exists. On top of that, Google Places stores reviews of your practice from all of the business listings like Yelp and Yahoo, which may have negative comments that you have never even seen. If your practice has attracted bad reviews then Google Places will give all bad reviews a priority for your Places listing. Instead of being valuable marketing tools for your practice, these sites can actually be quite damaging if the information that they carry about your practice is false or negative.

It is possible to turn a poor online reputation around in a very short amount of time. Statistics show that 80% of consumers seeking healthcare providers search online and as many as 94% of Google users only look at the first ten results in the search engine results pages. It is important that the positive messages about you and your vein practice are placed highly in these listings.

Especially with the impact of mobile devices that can connect to the internet, bad reviews can be having an immediate impact on your revenue and the traffic to your practice. Bad online reviews do cost your practice revenue and they won’t go away on their own, even if they are false or misleading. So what can you do to protect your online reputation from being damaged by a few poor remarks?

When negative content is published about you or your practice, it shows up quickly on the Internet. If left unaddressed, the long-term effect from negative postings will severely damage your personal and professional reputation. Opinions sway like the wind, and before you know it, more and more people are engaging in the online conversation about you or your medical practice. By taking an aggressive stance to online attacks, you are able to regain control of your good name.

What is Reputation Management? Simply put, reputation management is the practice of making yourself and/or your medical practice look your professional best on the Internet. To accomplish this, you need to control online search results because they frequently contain inaccurate, misleading or outdated information.

Reputation management became necessary with the advent of social networks, online forums, blogs and other forms of online communication and information sharing. But since current laws are insufficient to prevent total strangers from damaging your online reputation or harvesting your private information, online reputation management is now critical.

Negative content published about doctors and other healthcare professionals can detrimentally affect their online reputations and the success of their practices. Negative and biased defamatory online content can take the form of doctor reviews on websites such as RateMDs.com and HealthGrades.com, or as misleading articles, blogs or comments that paint a doctor in an incorrect or unflattering light.

Doctors seeking to control their reputations online have a variety of strategic options available to them. How doctors manage negative content online is varied. Strategies that work for doctor reviews by patients are different from those strategies used to combat incorrect information that’s published by media organizations. By developing a comprehensive reputation management strategy, doctor reviews become a positive way to deal with virtually any type of negative content.

Reputation Management Processes
Reputation Management is the process of monitoring search results related to your name or practice and associated keywords to ensure the results that people see when they search for you using search engines like Google, Yahoo or Bing are the ones that you want them to see.

The benefits of a clean and professional online reputation include:

  • Improved Image of yourself and your medical practice
  • Increased consultations / great first impressions
  • Increased patient retention
  • Increased patient referrals
  • Increased PCP patient referrals
  • Increased community awareness

Negative online posts come from multiple sources, including:

  • Disgruntled ex-employees
  • Disgruntled patients
  • Former Spouses and Significant Others as a form of personal retaliation
  • Family Members angry over personal matters
  • News media or bloggers
  • Anonymous troublemakers

Best Practices – Reputation Management

#1: Focus on the positive and share factual information.
The website RateMDs.com maintains a “Wall of Shame” for physicians who try to prevent patients from posting reviews. A better approach is to keep tabs on the types of criticisms being leveled against your Internet reputation and to post factual information to counter these critiques.

#2: Keep tabs on negative comments.
Many physician review websites allow doctors to display professional profiles, which can be used to defuse potential attacks and to control your reputation. Doctor-patient confidentiality prevents you from directly engaging online critics; however, you can address common themes in a general manner. For instance, patient comments like “The doctor seemed rushed” can be downplayed with a statement such as “We are one of the few vein practices in this area, and we pride ourselves on serving as many patients as possible.” A creative, positive response exists for virtually any criticism. And when you do find content that addresses a genuine shortcoming, use it as an opportunity to improve your practice.

#3: Provide factual information to counter criticism.
When it comes to media organizations, don’t even think of trying to threaten them, you’ll just generate more negative content. Your best bet is to provide clear, factual evidence that they have unjustly tarnished your professional online reputation. Contact the organization to identify the editor responsible for the piece. Prepare a concise description of the facts for that individual, and politely request that the article be retracted or corrected. Persistence is key. Continue with periodic, polite requests until you get a response. How doctors can manage negative content online can be tricky business, but with persistence you can and will succeed.

#4: Request support from your patients.
Regardless of the source of your negative content, get your satisfied patients behind you. An abundance of positive reviews by patients will outweigh a few negative ones and they can also help mitigate misleading comments or blogs. By sheer mass of positive feedback you can repair negative reviews.

#5: Be aware of your interpersonal skills or lack thereof.
Patient’s mention a doctor’s interpersonal skills or lack thereof in online more than any other factor, so you can do a lot to inspire would-be positive reviewers by making patients feel valued. Work on developing conversational strategies that instill trust without significantly lengthening patient visits. If you need to rush to get through a busy day, explain why. Also give the patient some avenue for seeking further information or asking questions.

#6: Request feedback from patients.
Encourage patients to write positive reviews. Directly asking for positive comments might turn off some patients, but there are a lot of ways to gently foster positive feedback. You might consider some of the following…..

  • Quote a few positive reviews on your web site or brochures.
  • Post a sign in your waiting area saying that you value patient feedback, whether in person, by phone, email or via online forums.
  • Link to positive content on your practice’s website.
  • Send follow-up emails encouraging patients to provide feedback.

#7: Engage an online reputation management service.
If you find yourself in the midst of a negative media storm, the self-help approaches above may not be sufficient to resolve your negative content. You’ll need to enlist professional help.

How to Monitor Your Search Engine Reputation
There are a variety of tools that you can use to keep track of your search engine reputation. Most are free and many can even be automated. In other words, you set them up and then let them do their thing. You’ll receive notifications of published content that matters to your online reputation.

• Google Search: Use the Google Advanced Search form to conduct a daily search on your name, your practice name, and any other specific keyword phrases that affect your online reputation. Follow links to relevant results and investigate the sources.

• Google Alerts: Set up Google Alerts for your name, practice name, and related keyword phrases, so you automatically receive an email message each day when content that includes your keywords is found by Google. Follow the links to see what’s being published about you.

• Twitter Search: Use the Advanced Twitter Search form conduct daily searches on your name, practice name, and related keyword phrases and sort the results by date. Follow relevant links and investigate what was published and shared about you on Twitter.

• Twitter Alerts: Use a tool like Twilert to set up automatic email notifications when your name, practice name, and related keyword phrases are published on Twitter. When results are sent to you, click on the links and learn who is talking about you and what they’re saying.

• Monitter: Using a tool like Monitter, you can track Twitter updates related to your chosen keywords (for example, your name, your practice name, or keywords) in real-time. It’s the perfect tool to stay on top of your online reputation and respond to related tweets instantly. It’s also perfect for building relationships and indirectly promoting your blog because you can jump into conversations as they’re happening.

• Web Analytics Tool: If you track your blog’s performance with a web analytics tool like Google Analytics, then you can see the sites that are sending traffic to your blog. Follow the incoming links and see what the source is saying about you and your blog.

In short, online reputation repair is the practice of suppressing harmful blogs, reviews, and other defamatory content from search results. A damaged online reputation can wreak havoc on your name or practice name. We live in a Google world, where over 90% of consumers search prior to making a purchasing decision. With the first impression of your good name on the line, it’s paramount that you have control over your search results.

 

David Schmiege is the president and CEO of Vein Specialists of America Ltd., a practice management consulting and advisory firm. Please direct any questions you may have for Schmiege to 630-789-3636 or e-mail him at [email protected].

 

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