Taking Responsibility for Your Online Reputation

Neil Baum, MD

Neil Baum, MD, is Clinical Associate Professor of Urology, Tulane Medical School, New Orleans, LA, and author of Marketing Your Clinical Practice: Ethically, Effectively, and Economically, Jones Bartlett Publishers.


Patients with a computer and access to social media can now easily and effortlessly comment on your practice and your services. Most comments about physicians are positive. However, a negative one may be posted by a disgruntled patient. So how do you manage your online reputation?

What is the physician's most precious possession? Some might answer that it is his\her patients. Others might respond it is the training and education that the physician has obtained to practice his\her craft. But the real answer is that it's the physician's reputation. Doctors live and die by their reputations. These reputations take years to build but are so fragile that they can crumble in a matter of seconds.

A colleague called me after he saw an unflattering review about me on an online website. The reviewer, who did not provide their name, referred to the doctor as technologically advanced but more motivated to increase his income by performing too many diagnostic tests.  

It is my observation that most online reviews of physicians are positive and most physicians have five or fewer reviews on any one site. Let’s face it; even the most charming, charismatic and experienced physician cannot possibly satisfy every patient that walks through the door.

I suggest you be proactive about your online reputation. At a minimum, you should be monitoring your reputation by conducting periodic search, ie, “Googling” your name—to identify what information about their practice is already visible online.

The most successful practices acquire reviews organically, a technique that is often achieved through quality customer service and outstanding patient care. To encourage a steady flow, you can administer a process to encourage your most satisfied, loyal patients to review your practice. Make the process simple. Hand patients a review card (Figure) as they leave your office with easy steps for leaving a review online. A patient pleased with your service will be happy to take 5 minutes to review your practice. Acquire 5 to 10 reviews monthly and within a year’s time you will have generated enough positive reviews to negate any damaging comments that will inevitably emerge from time to time.

Scenario outcome: I have a robust Internet presence with my name and my practice appearing at the top of search engine response page when “urologist” plus “New Orleans” is typed into the Google search engine window. By far most of the reviews of my practice are positive and I have balanced the rare negative response with numerous and plentiful positive response.  

Patients are seeking and leaving reviews about you and your practice online. It’s time to embrace this digital age and actively manage your online reputation. Do not let one disgruntled patient ruin your reputation. Our advice is to take an active role and generate positive reviews to drown out any negative remarks made by an occasional patient.