Many physicians appear invisible when someone does an Internet search - unless they want to be lost in the fray, it is up to them to make sure they have an accurate listing.
It's amazing how many physicians seem invisible (or close to it) when someone does an Internet search. Our consultants were recently called in to help a practice that added a new physician within the past 10 months. When we searched the Internet for this doctor - narrowed to the exact community - she did not show up; despite the fact that there are a growing number of Internet sites that profile physicians in every community.
Physicians' names, specialties, and addresses appear on rating websites such as HealthGrades.com, Vitals.com, and other directories and review/rating sites that pull information from licensing databases and other public sources. The problem is that the information on these websites is sometimes minimal and often outdated. Through an Internet search it can take a long time for a physician coming out of a fellowship on the East Coast to show up in a California community where she recently took a position, unless someone in the practice makes an effort to ensure there is an accurate listing for this physician. Otherwise, it will be difficult for potential patients to discover this fine physician and that much harder to grow her patient base.
Claiming your space
Claiming your "space" is a process of identifying yourself as the doctor listed on online rating sites. This typically takes only a few minutes, but it is essential to start the process of correcting potentially outdated information. Once you've claimed your space, many directories and rating sites allow you to add details to your listing - like a photo, website address, group practice name, and multiple practice locations, which can improve your search ranking and bring your website to the forefront. Taking these steps helps you to ensure the information shown on these sites is correct and allows you to respond in the event a negative review is posted. Data from these various rating sites is used by Google to enhance its search results.
In recent years Google has continued emphasizing local Web pages in its search results and this can be a valuable marketing tool for physicians. One of Google's primary tools in bringing results to the local market is "Google Places," a system that pulls information from all over the Web to create business profiles for search-firm websites - the program creates directories broken down by professional categories, such as physicians and dentists, but also relies on business owners to verify and develop their own Google Places profile. It allows you to claim your space, correct inaccurate information, update or add additional addresses, and provide a detailed description of your practice and its service mix. Getting professional assistance can help you present your business information in the best light; making your practice more attractive to potential patients searching for a new physician. It can provide a great return on investment. Such additions give a huge competitive advantage versus the dozens of unadorned listings that will pop up alongside yours.
Claiming your space and keeping information current is a pretty easy process, composed of steps that are user friendly - and it's free. Sure, it takes time, but once your space is claimed, a Web-savvy staff member can be assigned the responsibility of keeping it current - as long as management lets her know when updates are needed, for example, when a young physician in the practice passes his boards. With more people turning to the Internet to find and research professionals, claiming your space and increasing your Web presence have become powerful marketing tools.
Keep in mind that everyone is talking to everyone on the Internet, and more patients are scoring their physicians on these rating sites. For this reason, we suggest you check out your ratings on these sites from time to time. It can provide a telling barometer on your patients' opinions of the service they receive, and the over-all patient experience in your practice. If the marks are low, take them seriously, and bring in a consultant to help improve your customer service and make your practice the very best it can be.
Judy Capko is a principal consultant with Capko & Company and author of "Take Back Time -Bringing Time Management to Medicine" and "Secrets of the Best-Run Practices," now in its second edition. For more information go to www.capko.com