Physicians’ reputation in the age of social media

December 21, 2011

As we previously discussed here on the blog, the relationship between physicians and patients has changed considerably with the public’s open access to medical information, and today physicians are just as visible online as anyone else. This has given rise to a whole new concern for physicians: Their online reputations.

Online reputation management
A recent QuantiaMD survey has found that 87% of US physicians use social media for personal purposes while 67% use it professionally. The presence of the physicians on the social media has thus made it possible for patients to get information about their physician, and in fact one-third of U.S. physicians have received Facebook friend requests from patients; 75% of them declined the invitations.

We all share our experiences with our social networks, and it used to be a well-known fact within marketing that a satisfied person would tell 3-5 people about a positive experience whereas a person who had a negative experience told 10-20 others. But with social media a person can today share negative thoughts with hundreds of people just by posting on a popular website or on social networks. A doctor’s reputation can thus quickly be worsened if an unsatisfied patient leaves a harmful comment on the social networks.

Many patients are web-savvy medical consumers who are interested in researching the backgrounds of their physicians and reading reviews about them. Social media has even given rise to websites where patients can rate their doctors, such as VitalsHealthGrades, DrScore, and Yelp. Studies have shown that 80 percent of consumers go online to read information about doctors. According to Tobin Arthur, CEO and founder of iMedExchange, online reputation management is therefore something physicians should care about because it can affect their practice and their relationship with their patients.

What can physicians do to manage their online reputations?
Here is some advice from the online reputation management company Reputation Rhino:

  1. Manage your personal online life – be careful with accepting friend requests from patients
  2. But, don’t fear professional online interaction – you can boost your online reputation by engaging in online communities such as Sermo
  3. Engage in online patient communities – seize the opportunity to become a thought leader in the patient world by being active in patient communities such as
  4. Monitor the aforementioned patient rating websites – to give yourself a reality check-up to take proactive steps to improve the patient experience

Of course it is only fair that patients should also be aware of how to check their doctor’s e-reputation, as it could give them valuable insight and help them choose the physician that will best fit their needs.

What do you think of doctors and patients being friends on Facebook? Do you look up a doctor online before contacting him or her?


Susie Felber

Susie is a writer and producer who has worked in nearly every medium. As the daughter of a hard-working M.D., she's had a lifelong interest in health and is proud that she continues to lower her 5k time as she ages.
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