Set up a Google Alert
Are you worried about online patient reviews? According to a study conducted last year and published recently in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, it may not be as big a problem as you think. The study indicated that patients are most reluctant to criticize their physicians. Nearly 90 percent of physician reviews it encountered were positive. The study was conducted by Tara Lagu, MD, MPH, a Tufts University School of Medicine assistant professor based at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, Massachusetts.
The study runs contrary to the popular belief that people typically take to writing online reviews only when they are disgruntled and looking for a way to vent. However, despite the positive results of the study, many healthcare professionals remain greatly concerned about negative and malicious reviews. Most review sites are wide open to adding content and it can be very easy for an angry patient or competitor to put up false or exaggerated information.
To combat this concern, the American Medical Association recommends that physicians continually monitor the web for information posted about themselves or their practice, or research they conducted. Interestingly enough, if you target Dr. Lagu’s study, you will find conflicting information from site to site about the number of subjects in the study: either 81 or 300.
The best way to monitor is to make use of automatic Google alerts, a free service. You can plug in variations of your name as the search criteria and then conduct general searches across the entire web or narrow the search to a variety of targets including blogs, news, and discussions.
You also decide how often you want to receive an automated linked report via email. It can be daily, weekly, or instantaneous in response to new postings.
When you do your first alert, dealing with the response will seem like a daunting response; however, once you work with the alerts regularly, the process becomes much more manageable.
If you’ve changed offices over the last decade or changed any logistical information, chances are that some old information is still hanging around. Most sites will allow you to go in, identify yourself, and update the information.
Respond Rather than React
When you run across that first negative review or comment, your immediate impulse will be to react and fire off a defensive salvo of your own. Avoid the temptation. The last thing you want is to be drawn into an online argument, especially when you are on the defensive.
If you are allowed, respond with a measured voice, treating the assault as if it is no big deal. Talk in generalities when possible. If you know the attacker, don’t let on that you do. It’s an ethical fine line you walk when you as a doctor begin discussing specific information about a previous patient.
Ultimately, the best way to deal with the situation is to use your own website to create a positive impression and to solicit reviews of a positive nature.
To set up your Google Alerts, go to www.google.com/alerts