How to Think About Negative Online Reviews

socialized_medicineBy Bryan Vartabedian, MD

Doctors are preoccupied with consumer review sites and the potential for bad press. Often the first impulse is to put the law on your side. Sue the rating site or the patient and the problem will be fixed.

While we may feel some sense of satisfaction or retribution, the end result is that every curious member of the free world reads the review in question to see what the fuss is all about, creating even more commotion and controversy.

Actions like these reflect a fundamental misunderstanding of modern reputation management.  Physicians who react against patient dialogue should understand the Streisand Effect.  The Streisand Effect is an online phenomenon in which the attempt to remove or hide information is met with the unintended consequence of greater attention. The more we try to silence unhappy customers, the louder it will make them louder. They will get the sense that their voices don’t count — that they will not to be heard.

Instead of a prohibitive, reactive position against patient comments, doctors should consider a preemptive, proactive approach to dialogue. Andy Sernovitz had it right when he suggested, ”The solution to pollution is dilution.”  We should work for the amazing comments that potentially can flow from patients. Rather than  disencouraging patients to share their experiences out of fear of negative reviews, physicians should be inspired to make the value of our care so exceptional that the positive views far outnumber the negative ones.  It’s hard to get worked up about three poor reviews when you have 120 great ones.

When physicians take action against patient reviews or work to stifle unflattering attention, they raise digital red flags. Patients deserve to be heard. Although we have no control over what people say online, we do have complete control over the stories we create. Here are some tips to help build your story and a strong online reputation:

Create a LinkedIn profile. The search function on LinkedIn is advanced and makes for good search engine optimization (SEO). Use the profile to tell the world a little bit about yourself: where you went to school, activities outside of work, and so forth Allow the world to learn about you outside of the office, where they feel comfortable.

Start a blog. Try with one post every week or two to start. If you want to build and manage your online reputation, you must go to where your patients are: online.

Create a YouTube channel. Then make a video or two to populate it. This is a great option if you don’t feel comfortable writing, and very easy: All you need is a computer with a camera. Even a portable laptop will do.

Do your best to provide an online experience that encourages and provides for constructive and positive dialogue and conversation.

Learn more at the AAMC Annual Meeting. Dr. Vartabedian is one of the speakers presenting “Digital Literacy for Educators and Learners,” Sunday, November 3, 2013, from 11 a.m. to noon.

Vartabedian–Bryan Vartabedian, MD, writes monthly for Wing of Zock about the intersection of health care, medical education, and social media. He is a pediatrician at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, and blogs at 33 charts.