For a medical doctor looking to build a practice, reputation management is everything. Your number one asset is not your degree or your bedside manager; it is your reputation. If potential patients have any reason to doubt your reputation as a medical professional, they will look elsewhere.
For medical professionals in 2022, reputation management involves much more than face-to-face interactions with patients. In the age of online reviews, a doctor’s online persona is a critical part of their reputation. Today’s consumers, who include those shopping for a doctor, rely heavily on online reviews. Reports show that online reviews inspire consumers to select or avoid choosing a provider.
Beyond reviews, it is not unusual for potential patients to assess a doctor’s reputation based on their private social media. No longer is a doctor’s brand limited to their professional reputation; in many cases, their private life is weighed as well. Anything posted to social media can no longer be considered private. Social media branding, both personal and professional, is a critical part of any doctor’s online reputation management.
Leveraging Social Media For Doctors
The opportunities offered by social media give it the potential to be a valuable tool for doctors. A wealth of information about a wide variety of topics can be shared via social feeds. It can be used by doctors or medical practices to inform their patients or community about important health practices. It can also be used to inspire those suffering from medical ailments by sharing the stories of those who have recovered.
When it comes to promoting a doctor or medical practice, social media can be very effective. However, there are significant risks that need to be considered by doctor’s who share information via social channels.
The possibility of individuals interpreting social media comments as medical advice is one factor that must be weighed heavily. In a professional medical setting, doctors prescribe a course of action based on intimate knowledge of a patient. There is context and consideration of other factors.
Comments made on social media can easily be taken out of context. In addition, they can be assumed to be applicable when related factors are not present. Medical professionals should always err on the side of caution when it comes to sharing medical information on social media.
In addition, social posts run the risk of violating medical standards, laws, and regulations. This is often the case when posts capture situations involving patients or procedures. Disciplinary actions in the medical field results from unprofessionalism more often than it does from poor medical practices. Even if posts do not violate patient privacy, they could result in HIPAA violations.
In extreme cases, things posted on social media could violate laws. The fines or jail time that result from such violations obviously have a severe impact on a doctor’s reputation. However, social media and healthcare can achieve a powerful synergy if doctors give proper attention to their online reputation management.
Three Rules For Social Media In Healthcare
To ensure that social media is used to build your practice rather than tear it down, here are three rules that should be followed.
First, treat every post as if it is a professional post. When it comes to social media for doctors, no post is ever a casual post. Posts that have anything to do with healthcare should be considered very carefully. Even posts that do not have anything to do with healthcare should be considered carefully. Online viewers are not judging your reputation simply based on your medical opinions. Posts about your views on political, spiritual, and societal issues can have just as big an impact on your reputation as those related to medicine.
Second, do not share information that you cannot confirm. The COVID-19 pandemic produced a flood of information on social media. Much of this information was related to ways to treat the virus. Many of the recommendations were difficult to support with legitimate medical research. If doctors are going to share information via social media, proper reputation management demands that they personally verify it.
Third, always weigh the risks against the potential benefits. This gets to the heart of using social media for branding in healthcare. Doctors who want to grow a practice should have a strategy for their social media branding. Every post on every platform should support the strategy. Sticking with the strategy contributes to building a strong, consistent brand. Even posts meant to be strictly light and humorous can be misunderstood. Focus on the goal of online reputation management and you will develop a habit of only sharing posts that build your brand.
Reputation Management For Doctors When Things Go Wrong
Whether through bad decisions, misunderstandings, or unfounded complaints, doctors can find themselves in the midst of a reputation management crisis. When this happens, it is important to appreciate the significance. Consider that some reports show that businesses with a rating of less than 3.3 stars are often passed over by shoppers. Other reports reveal that one negative article online can cost a business 22 percent of their clients or customers.
To quickly and effectively address these issues, doctors should consider seeking assistance. Just as medicine is a science best left to those with experience, online reputation management also benefits from professional experience. This is especially true in the wake of negative press.
Public relations firms often offer services to assist clients with reputation management. When it comes to online reputation management for doctors, PR firms can provide strategies for adding positive reviews and leveraging those reviews to attract and retain new patients. When situations result in negative press for doctors, PR firms can provide media strategies that mitigate the damage. (Click here for a post on Crisis Communications Tactics for 2022.)
Overall, you should consider your reputation to be your most important patient. If your reputation becomes “ill,” it is critical that it gets the attention that it needs to achieve optimal health.