Online Reputation ‘Critical’ to Your Practice’s Success

September 1, 2011

What people say about your services on the Internet could be affecting your patient pool.

Two years ago I moved to a new city. When searching for a doctor, I didn’t ask my new coworkers for recommendations. It seemed like a strange subject to broach over a “getting to know you” cup of coffee. 

I didn’t ask my new friends. They lived in other neighborhoods, and I wanted to find a doctor close to my apartment.

I didn’t open up the phonebook and search the Yellow Pages. I didn’t even own a phonebook.

Instead, I went online to my insurance provider’s website, and I found a physician accepting my insurance nearby.

But before picking up the phone to book an appointment, I did something else, something pretty common these days: I Googled.

In the one minute it took to type that physician’s name into the search box and browse through the results, I learned everything from where and when he went to medical school, to his office location, to his specialty, to what some of his patients thought of his services.

I learned whether I wanted him to be my doctor.

Like me, more and more people are using the Internet to find, research, filter through, and review physicians.

According to the Pew Internet Project, a nonprofit that explores the Internet’s effect on a variety of issues, 44 percent of people look for doctors online and 16 percent of Internet users have consulted online rankings or reviews of doctors.

Essentially, what people say about your services could be affecting your patient pool.

In a recent KevinMD.com blog, one physician writes that his fellow physicians need to adjust and adapt to this change.

“Our entrance into this sphere of consumer feedback has already begun, and inevitably will proceed at an ever increasing pace,” he writes. “There is no point in resisting, so we should join in.”

So how can practices “join” in?

Conducting a quick Internet search to see what people are saying about you online is an easy first step. It’s always good to know how you are perceived. Perhaps it can shed light on some things you need to improve or address.

If you’re looking to grow, you might consider investing in online reputation monitoring software, or budgeting for it in the future.

The AMA recently announced a partnership with online reputation management and privacy control organization Reputation.com. "In the digital age, an online reputation is critical to the success of a practice," AMA President Peter W. Carmel said in a statement.

As part of the partnership, through the AMA’s Member Value Program, physicians can receive a 10 percent discount to a Reputation.com program designed to increase positive content and actively combat false, misleading or irrelevant Google results, according to a representative from Reputation.com.

The program costs about $1,000, the representative said in an e-mail, and it ranges based on the services a practice prefers. Services range from suppressing inaccurate or misleading links from search results when people Google your practice, to helping practices create patient-friendly sites, to helping those sites stay at the top of search results by regularly refreshing them and by employing various search engine optimization techniques.

Programs like this are of course an extra cost, but as your online reputation becomes more and more important, they might be worth your consideration.

For more tips and advice regarding online reviews, listen to our recent podcast with ophthalmologist and medical marketing expert Randall Wong who is also a Practice Notes blogger on our site.