Managing Online Physician Reviews

You know you’ve been there.  You want to find a new doctor or you’ve already selected a new doctor and you are seeing them for the first time. What do you do?  You Google! Before we go any further, let me first suggest that you become a discerning Googler when it comes to healthcare.

Many times, I end up having to dig deeper to page 2 or 3 or 4 on an online search to find substantial, credible information, and that’s crazy. Having to dig to page 3 or 4 to find the credible health information we seek is insane and poses a real problem for physicians and healthcare practices.

Today I’m passing along a great podcast for those interested in healthcare social media.  The podcast, “Doctor’s Reviews are In,” from Amazon #1 Best Selling Author, Daniel Lemin, tackles an interesting aspect of social media: online physician reviews.  Mr. Lemin sat down with Dr. Kevin Pho, the premier expert and leading physician voice for all things healthcare social media. If you haven’t checked out his comprehensive encyclopedia of a blog, you must.  He publishes four times a day.  Wow.

Inevitably, behemoth sites such as and come up first in any physician related online search. On these two sites, there is currently no requirement and no way to verify if a patient who writes a review has actually been seen by the physician they have reviewed. Healthgrades mentions they verify the person posting is not a spammer by “going through several validation steps,” such as confirming a reviewer’s email address. There is no mention of ability to confirm the patient actually saw the physician. I could not find an FAQ section on vitals.  I looked for a few minutes.  Either it’s not there or it is buried in some section of the website that is difficult to find, rendering it the same as not existing.

There is at least one online review company that offers verified reviews. ZocDoc offers a number of pretty cool tools: ability to schedule appointments online, to store redundant, painful check-in paperwork, and to review physicians you have seen. Their website is pretty slick, and easy on the eyes.

So what’s a physician to do?  Rely on word of mouth?  Ignore fake reviews?  Continue to be incognito online?  No!  Today it is more important than ever for physicians to be proactive about building their online reputation.  Dr. Pho eloquently points out that the practicing physician voice is almost totally missing from the online world. In addition, he stated that when a review is legitimate, studies suggest that most reviews are, in fact, positive!

Having to dig to page 3 or 4 in a Google search to find the credible health information you seek is insane and poses a real problem for physicians and healthcare practices.

I like Dr. Pho’s recommendations to offset and manage a physician’s online reputation.  Dr. Pho suggests taking a proactive, positive and creative approach to managing online reputations in healthcare.

  1. Bring your ratings system in house.  Bringing this feature “in-house” provides more control for a physician practice. The way I see it, there’s a number of ways to do this.  One, form a relationship with a service like ZocDoc so that you ensure reviews are legitimate and ranked well in online searches. Two, have patients write testimonials that are mailed in to your practice and put online.  Option two is probably not viable for most practices given the over paperworked, metric driven healthcare system that we exist in. Three, get an iPad for your practice so that patients can do a review at check out in the waiting room. Your IT guy can upload them to your website as featured testimonials.  Sure, it’s not a “usual” thing to do, and without a doubt, someone in the practice will complain that it’s too cumbersome or causes them too much extra work. However, I would argue losing business to a poor online brand and fake reviews is a worse idea. For the right practice that has a champion to own this process and is committed to improving their online brand, this could actually be a very easy thing to do.
  2. At a minimum, set up a LinkedIn profile.  Come on, docs!  This one is so easy.  It takes less than 20 minutes to set up a bare bones LinkedIn profile. Setting up a LinkedIn profile creates an online resume, provides you a public image online and lends you the power of LinkedIn’s search engine optimization.  Having the power of LinkedIn’s SEO is important, given that the unverified review sites have excellent SEO and often outrank physician’s own websites when their name is googled. Don’t have the time to make your profile or want to be trained on how to manage your social profiles?  Contact me.  It’s painless.  I promise.
  3. Consider joining HCP only social media sites like Doximity and SERMO.  Again, creating a Doximity or SERMO profile puts some powerful SEO behind your name, and connects you with a vast HCP network. Currently 500,000 physicians are members of Doximity.  Doximity also has a neat feature that allows HCPs to send and receive secure, HIPAA compliant faxes right from a mobile device. SERMO is the largest, global HCP-only social networking site with over 600,000 physician members.  It features such benefits as medical crowdsourcing for complex cases and confidential real world healthcare discussions.

There was so much fantastic information covered in the podcast.  I suggest taking a listen for yourself. The podcast is available on, here. View my recommendations for additional ideas to start building an online brand in my previous post, “A lesson in personal branding: hiding online is no longer an option.

Taking a proactive approach to managing online reputation in healthcare will increasingly become important as patient satisfaction scores are already starting to drive reimbursement from payers.  Furthermore, patients are demanding a better service experience from their healthcare providers as healthcare costs are now frequently pushed down to the patient in the form of higher co-pays/co-insurance, consumer driven healthcare plans with high deductibles, and rising chronic disease epidemics. Dr. Pho points out that healthcare tends to lag a few years behind the newest trends.  Now that most of us can’t even eat at a restaurant without “Yelping” it first, I think it is safe to say, we are almost there with healthcare. I for one, am excited to see what the “Yelp” of healthcare will be!

Leave a reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s