As a healthcare provider, your reputation matters. Traditionally, patients have depended on word of mouth when it comes to which doctor to go to. Everyone would tell family and friends which doctors they liked or didn't like, while referring physicians would refer to the specialists whom they trusted as good doctors to take care of their patients.
Online rating sites are starting to change things. The truth is that the vast majority of people don't bother to rate their physician at all- so there are very few ratings out there. But, terrible ratings and comments from irate patients is a real cause of distress for doctors.
Unfair negative comments
Many doctors want to know what to do about unfair, potentially damaging comments. Unfair negative comments can happen when a patient doesn't understand the bill (the doctor doesn't personally send the bill, but medical bills reflect poorly on the doctor) Negative ratings can happen when a patient doesn't receive disability or other benefits. And unfair negative ratings can happen when a patient doesn't receive certain substances he may have demanded from the physician. The medical community is aware of these biases, but most patients aren't aware of these factors when they look up a physician online.
And, doctors are often frustrated because the negative comments are not usually directly related to the particular dispute, but are often falsified. Nevertheless, they are out there for everyone to see.
Bad comments that are true
No one is perfect, and unfortunately, people are more likely to post bad comments on rating sites when they are unhappy with the outcome than they are to post good comments when things turn out well. Many of us achieve a sense of satisfaction and feel more 'in control' of life after posting a negative review.
This tips the factual comments in favor of the negative.
What should you do?
*Often, doctors try to redirect practice away from medical conditions that are commonly associated with patients who are more likely to be 'toxic.' This can be unfair to patients because even angry or vindictive people have real medical problems and need medical care.
*Some doctors have been able to contact administrators of physician rating sites, as negative ratings can have a harmful impact on referrals and on the livelihood of good physicians who are treated unfairly online.
*Because of patient privacy concerns, physicians, unlike other business owners, cannot rebut a complaint by explaining in a comment on the website, 'this patient asked for ...'
*Some doctors have tried litigation, which is a costly and lengthy process. But, as with all legal issues, precedents may change things over time.
*Some physician rating sites are starting to charge a fee for services such as 'enhanced search engine optimization' and 'high rating profiles.' This is still a very new concept and it may turn out to benefit doctors who jump on the idea early, or it may not make a difference.
*One way to control your professional online presence is by presenting yourself online as yourself. When old-fashioned word of mouth was the way things were done, a doctor's personality could shine through. Now, doctors can show who they really are through writing patient-centered articles that demonstrate to patients how a doctor may interact in person. Consider writing an article for nonclinicaldoctors.com or for another website as a way to control your own online reputation.
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