There has been a lot of recent *talk* and social media chatter around testimonials — their usefulness, believability and influence on a patient’s decisions to visit a particular physician.
Opinions, as expected, are all over the place.
There are still a number of law suits floating around trying to prevent patients from posting to sites like Vitals.com, Healthgrades.com, Yelp.com and AngiesList.com . Some physicians are also putting clauses into the paperwork you sign when you enter their practice that you will not engage in online discussions about him or her.
Why is the medical community so paranoid about this?
Tobin Arthur, CEO of iMedExchange had a very nice article on this topic on KevinMD’s blog. The issue resurfaced today on Kevin’s blog — but there were very few responses to the guest post. The author of the guest post, Dr. Neil Baum, suggested to physicians that the physician should post quotes from their patients onto their site — after obtaining appropriate approvals.
Testimonials by themselves just scratch the surface of the bigger issue at hand, and that is online reputation management.
Over the next few short years, I venture to guess that your online reputation will far exceed your offline reputation in terms of overall impact and importance.
The ability of cloud based platforms to reach the masses… will be more powerful and more pervasive than current word of mouth methods to discuss or determine someone’s reputation.
What can a physician do right now, even if they have no desire to establish an online presence?
Google Alerts: Google allows you to define the search term, frequency and how you would like to be notified. I have found this invaluable. I know exactly when someone posts something about me online, regardless of the site it is on. Why is this important? What if the message is on a site you can not respond to? Don’t you want to know what people are saying about you???? Can you please everyone and every patient everyday? No. Will one poor post on Vitals end your reputation, NO! BUT… what if you have 4 or 5 bad reviews and most of the reviewers site the same issue? Now you will know exactly what you need to do to prevent further bad reviews from appearing on these sites.
Consider establishing a digital footprint … Website (it’s not nearly as hard as you think it is); Blog; also not nearly as difficult as you think it might be. How many patients a day do you talk to? How many times do you discuss the natural history of rotator cuff tears, diabetes, hypertension, etc. Quite a lot, I imagine. Well… if you had a website or a blog you simply dictate virtually the same discussion and upload the transcript. Done. A topic borne :-)
Bottom line… whether you want to be online or not, you ARE! People are talking about you. Do you want to monitor and try and control the message? Do you want to know if your front desk is chasing people away? I imagine you do. Set up a google alert and start watching. When you are ready to venture further … call me, I will be more than happy to assist you.
Lastly… I do not believe that physicians should be posting testimonials directly on their site. I believe the patients should be given the ability to post a testimonial directly on a physicians site. Since this site opened up 3 months ago I have received a lot of praise from many patients who want to be able to post a testimonial on their time and at a computer they are comfortable with. You always have the option to moderate the comments if you so chose.