Like it or not, the internet lets everyone be a critic. Anyone with an internet connection and a computer can opine about any subject, from restaurants and hotels to local businesses and service providers. Thousands of websites are dedicated to compiling user-submitted reviews and making this information accessible to future customers, clients, or patients. These sites are often displayed prominently on search engine results pages (SERPs) for a name or company. Therefore, it’s imperative for businesses and individuals to manage and protect their online reputation.
One field where online reputation management is of the utmost importance is the medical profession. Nearly one fifth of all patients research physicians online before making an appointment; if information about a doctor is inaccurate or defamatory, his or her standing within the community and among colleagues can suffer severely.
Review sites for physicians have sprung up all over the internet, meaning the effects on a physician’s name and reputation are even greater, whether positive or negative. Practicing physicians, surgeons, and specialists should keep a close eye on their online presence to maintain their professional standing and to combat any false accusations levied by disgruntled patients or competitors.
This is not to say online reviews are not a valuable resource for consumers and patients; however, the potential for abuse does exist. Doctors may become the victims of online reviews which are deliberately false and intended to tarnish their reputations. Unfortunately, online defamation is more prevalent than most people think and can be the work of sophisticated attackers who swamp the internet with malicious content that dominates the results for a name or practice in search engines. When a patient searches for the doctor who has been the victim of such a smear campaign, he or she sees the false, defamatory material near the top of results.
What can physicians do to make sure their internet reputation is in good shape? If he or she isn’t versed in the technical aspects of internet reputation management, hiring a professional to defend against further attacks should be the first priority. Physicians can also take proactive steps in the office to educate patients about online review sites. Doctors should encourage patients to seek out information on review sites, but only on respectable, established sites such as WebMD.com or Angieslist.com. Doctors can update information about their practice on these websites and respond to legitimate negative criticism, as well.
Being aware of your online reputation is the first step in protecting and improving it. Do some preliminary research just by searching for your name or practice – early detection is crucial if the false content is going to be defended against. In severe cases of internet defamation, more advanced services will be required to protect your good name.