Building an Online Presence

It seems that every couple of months, I hear a story about a group of physicians who try to stifle the patient’s ability to post negative comments online.

The online community, of course, strongly opposes the notion of giving patients “gag orders.” People argue that if one can rate their local restaurant or mechanic shop, then why can’t patients rate physicians and their offices.

I’ve given doctor rating sites a lot of thought and I do have a lot of issues with them. However, I also think they are an important factor in our (transparent) Web2.0 world and by becoming aware of them, we can become better “service providers.” Not to mention these sites are not going away any time soon, so it is in our best interest to learn how to manage negative online criticism.

But, how should one deal with negative online comments about our practice or our doctors?

Glad you asked.

I believe that the secret to this challenge is to be anticipatory and taking charge of the situation. In other words, plan ahead.

But how? Glad you asked.

Build an Online Presence

The important lesson here is to establish an online presence that lends credibility before one needs it. Here is a practical example.

Practice A: a patient/parent starts to research [pediatricians] online and they come across a practice located nearby their home. The link takes them to a single negative remark someone wrote about Practice A’s doc on one of the physician rating sites.

The parent then puts the doctor’s name into Google search and nothing else comes up other than the practice’s static webpage... nothing remarkable about it.

Practice B: The same patient/parent finds another pediatrician with two negative online comments. The parent googles the names of the docs and finds that the doc have an interactive website with an active blog. The blog shows meaningful and interesting post about the practice, the specialty and other things that hold her attention. The parent finds multiple comments on the blog from satisfied and grateful parents.

Practice B’s website also has a Facebook fan page. The patient/parent clicks on the link that takes her to the practice’s fan page where there are many positive engagements between the patients and the practice. The parent notices all the satisfied parents that have taken the time to thank the doctor and their staff for their wonderful service, attention, understanding, etc.

Now, which one is perceived to be the better practice? I believe Practice B is the winner because despite the fact they had a couple of negative comments, their online presence far outweighed the negative criticism.

More than just a presence

Having an online presence does three things: 1) It allows the practice to engage patient outside of the practice which is appealing to parents; 2) It creates a sense of community which shows what the practice is about; 3) It gives parents/patients a platform to share their positive experience about the practice; which is critical in the context of potential patients/parents evaluating one’s practice from online reviews.

Asking for it

Instead of prohibiting patients with gag orders, encourage happy patients to post positive comments online.

“But we can’t ask for people to do this on our behalf, can we?”

I’ve seen signs in medical practices that read, “The greatest compliment you can give our practice is a referral.” In essence, the practice is requesting people to refer them patients point blank. With this in mind, a medical practice could ask happy patients/ parents to submit positive reviews online.

I’m sure in your practice you have families that absolutely LOVE your practice and your docs. Imagine if only half of them took the time to post positive comments online. The positive comments would completely dominate the search results for someone trying to find out information about your practice. But they won’t do it unless you ask them.

In our practice, we took these steps in an effort to create a positive digital footprint, so to speak. Although our online presence was not created with the single intent of leave a positive digital trail, we believe however, that leaving a positive digital trail goes a long way in balancing out a few negative comments online.

What are your thoughts about physician rating sites? Are they good? Bad? Do you have any other ideas about how to manage them?


(This blog was originally posted on

Brandon Betancourt is a business director for a pediatric practice in Chicago. He is a speaker, consultant and blogger. You can follow him on Twitter @PediatricInc or visit his blog at