Online Reputations in Healthcare

Blog post by Colin Hung

Over the past few weeks I have had no fewer than five different conversations on the topic of online reputations in healthcare.

It started with a fun and lively debate with my colleagues at work. There are a few members of the team who are not active on social media and there are others who are extremely active. Those that do not use social media saw it as a narcissistic pastime that has no place in business. Those that use it actively saw it as a place to share ideas, learn new things and connect with people. During the discussion one of the younger members of the team blurted out:

If you aren’t going to get on social media to establish your own reputation then you are essentially letting others define your online persona. Don’t you want to be in control of that?

By coincidence that was the exact line that spurred me to start being more active on social media. Six years ago a colleague of mine said that to me and it didn’t take me long to see the wisdom of her words. Over the years I’ve come to realize that online reputations matter. It matters when considering whether to hire someone, to do business with someone or to even befriend someone.

I mentioned in last week’s blog that I recently switched dentists. One of the criteria I used in selecting a new one was their online reputation and presence. I looked at online reviews of dentists in my area – on Google, on Yelp and on a local business rating site. I focused on any practice that had more than 35 reviews (Why 35? I figured anything less than 35 was either not statistically relevant and too easy to “game” with fake reviews). I think I read over 100 reviews across 10 dental practices.

I also looked to see if any of the dentists themselves were active on social media: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and even SnapChat. I didn’t find many that were online, but a few were. During my search I did stumble onto the Twitter feed of a dental hygienist. It was an impressive feed – lots of articles posted about how keep teeth white, what foods stain teeth the most, etc. But mixed in with the curated articles were personal comments about how much fun she was having at work. There were quite a few tweets about how supported she felt by her co-workers and how she looked forward to going to work each day. (Sorry for privacy reasons I’m not going to reveal her Twitter handle here).

That hygienist’s social media activity plus the online reviews tipped my decision. I’m now a happy patient at their practice.

For physicians, nurses and care providers, managing their online reputation can be a time-consuming job that has an unclear Return-on-Investment (ROI). A recent JAMA Study, highlighted by Rachel Arndt revealed that in 2014, 60% of patients said online reviews were important when selecting a doctor, yet in 2017 less than a third of doctors had any online reviews. Clearly patients are making choices using criteria other than just online ratings.

I believe it would be a mistake for those in healthcare to ignore their online reputations. A big wave of consumerism in healthcare is upon us and patients WILL BE using ratings/online searches to find providers. Now that patients are shouldering a bigger share of the financial costs of their care, they will begin to take more care (excuse the pun) on who they select as their healthcare professionals. Is it fair to judge someone solely by their online reputation – of course not. HOWEVER, there is so little transparency and standard measures of “good care” in healthcare that there are no real alternative information sources for patients.

Pretend for a moment that you were a patient in a big city looking for an Ear-Nose-and-Throat (ENT) doctor. Like many, you’d probably search Google. Of the 10 practices that appeared, suppose one had a 4.5-star rating and 500 reviews, the next had a 3-star rating and only 10 reviews and the remaining 8 had no rating whatsoever. Would you not gravitate to the 4.5-star rated one? Would you even research the ones with no reviews at all?

Many physicians have complained about the bias that is shown towards negative reviews (some studies put the power of a negative review at 10x that of a positive one). Rightfully so, some physicians say that some reviews are written by patients who had unrealistic expectations in terms of their health outcomes and took their frustrations out by writing a terrible review. Sometimes these jaded patients become social media trolls.

Matthew Katz MD @subatomicdoc has some excellent advice on how to deal with trolls from his slideshare:

Recently Marie Ennis-O’Connor @JBBC expanded on Katz’s recommendations in her blog post “How Should You Handle Social Media Trolls”:

Comments on Facebook or Instagram should not be removed if they refer to genuine customer-service issues. While this advice is based on patience and understanding through communication and conversation, it does not apply to persistent trolls and those intent upon abusing you/ You do not have to show “tolerance” for this kind of discourse, and you are within your rights to remove inflammatory or profane content and ban or block those who perpetuate its spread.

One of my favorite blogs on this topic comes from Howard J Luks MD @hjluksWhy Your Healthcare Social Media Digital Footprint Matters”. In it he asks a simple yet powerful question:

Experienced physicians possess an enormous repository of knowledge and experience – why not share that with a wider audience?

Join us on the next #hcldr chat, Tuesday March 14th at 8:30pm Eastern (GMT -5. for your local time click here) when we will be discussing online reputations in healthcare:

  • T1 What matters more – ratings/reviews or whether a physician/nurse/care provider is active on social media?
  • T2 Did the online reputation or rating of a physician/nurse/care provider make a difference in your choice? How?
  • T3 How would you suggest responding to a negative rating or post? What SHOULDN’T you do?
  • T4 What advice would you give to someone in healthcare who is just starting to manage their online reputation?


“Why Your Healthcare Social Media Digital Footprint Matters”, Howard J Luks MD, 16 November 2014,, accessed 11 March 2017

“Your Healthcare and Social Media Presence: Reputation Management”, Howard J Luks MD, 8 February 2012,, accessed 11 March 2017

“How Should You Handle Social Media Trolls”, Marie Ennis-O’Connor, Healthcare Social Media Monitor, 28 January 2017,, accessed 11 March 2017

“Twitter 103: Trolls, Malware & Spam”, Matthew Katz MD, 5 May 2014,, accessed 11 March 2017

“Online Physician Reputation Management: An Interview With Kevin Pho”, Phil Simon, Huffington Post, 29 March 2013,, accessed 11 March 2017

“Why Doctors Shouldn’t Be Afraid of Online Reviews”, Vivian S Lee, Harvard Business Review, 29 March 2016,, accessed 11 March 2017

“Doctors and Their Online Reputation”, Pauline W Chen MD, New York Times, 21 March 2013,, accessed 11 March 2017

“Reviews Matter”, Lisette Hilton, Cosmetic Surgery Times, 10 January 2017,, accessed 11 March 2017

“Reviews of doctors on physician-rating websites are few and far between”, Rachel Arndt, Modern Healthcare, 24 February 2017,, 11 March 2017

“Online Doctor Ratings About As Useful As Those For Restaurants”, Scott Hensley, NPR, 20 February 2014,, accessed 11 March 2017

“New study shows online reviews stressful for doctors”, Amy Wallace, UPI, 2 February 2017,, accessed 11 March 2017

“Healthcare’s new challenge: online reputation management”, Paddy Padmanabhan, CIO, 10 February 2017,, accessed 11 March 2017

“Five Online Reputation Management Strategies for Physicians”, Tod Baker, Physician’s Practice, 13 November 2015,, accessed 11 March 2017

“Wendy’s Shows Us All How to Respond to a Twitter Troll”, Erik Oster, AgencySpy, 3 January 2017,, accessed 11 March 2017

“Beware the Troll: 8 Ways to Deal With Negative Social Media Comments”, Carl Henderson, Salesforce, 30 August 2016,, accessed 11 March 2017

Image Credit

Newegg – Jason Howie


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