What Physicians Should Consider When Managing Their Online Reputation

July 20, 2013

A physician's online reputation is a valuable resource, so if it is not properly managed, it could lead to both professional and financial difficulties.

Your online reputation as a physician is valuable; probably even more so than you may realize. But if you do not manage your reputation the right way, it could lead to huge difficulties. The Internet has opened up the door to allowing people to find your practice easily, but by the same token it has made it possible for there to be fraudulent information and negative reviews, all of which can do damage.

It Looks Real

There are several problems with online reviews that will be imperative to act upon for physicians. For starters, it is illegal for you to pay someone to write a favorable review for you. This is a process known as "astroturfing," and is a problem that has plagued the Internet for years. With astroturfing, people (or sometimes the physician themselves) will log on to review websites and will leave glowing reviews, simply because they have received something in exchange (e.g. cash and/or incentives) for those reviews other than good service.

The reviews give great feedback and are typically "over the top," in regard to the product or service. In contrast, there are some people who will get others to purposely write negative reviews of their competitors, when there is a chance they have never been a customer at all.

The Legalities

What many people fail to realize is that astroturfing, fake reviews or reviews done in exchange for something, is illegal. In most cases it may qualify as a violation of the Endorsement and Advertising Guidelines, which are standards set by the Federal Trade Commission. Fake reviews have lead to monetary sanctions being placed against those who have written them.

Physicians need to exercise caution when it comes to managing their online reputation. It is essential to balance review management while remaining legal. While you can suggest to your happy customers to leave a review for your practice, it is best to avoid offering them something, such as a discount, gift, or money, for doing so.

Managing Carefully

It is estimated that good reviews can boost a business’s sales anywhere from 32 percent to 52 percent, according to the Harvard Business Review. So it stands to reason that a business with poor reviews will in turn lose current customers, or prevent new ones. For example, one Washington, D.C., building contractor fought back when he received a negative online review that he believes lead to him losing $300,000 worth of business. The contractor, who sued the person who wrote the review, claimed that it contained information that was not factually correct and it cost him a lot of business.

It is imperative that physicians manage their online reputation. But navigating the waters to get it done successfully, as well as legally, may prove to be challenging for some. This is a reason some people turn to reputation management companies. They know how to manage the online reputation, keep it all legal, and help you gain business as a result.