This week in Healthcare Marketing Made Easy, we discuss the current climate of physician rate and review sites, and how to navigate them.
“Reputation is an idle and most false imposition; oft got without merit, and lost without deserving.” —William Shakespeare, Othello
Think Shakespeare has little relevance to healthcare or marketing? Think again! But Shakespeare actually gets it wrong in the above quote (spoken by Iago, for those Shakespeare buffs!). Or, he gets the first part wrong anyway.
Reputation is not idle, and it's certainly not a false imposition. It is active, and — like it or not — it is a very real imposition. But let's not be too hard on William. He wrote these words 400 years before the Internet. One can only imagine what the wordsmith would have done with Google and Googling.
Your reputation as a physician is active, real, and of vital importance to your success as a physician. What's "out there" about you? Who's saying it and why? Where are they saying it? Answering these questions isn't necessarily a pleasant task, but it's got to be done.
The first thing to do is to Google your name. Try different variations of your name, and also try entering your name in quotations for a more targeted search. Chances are, you'll find your search results bring a smattering of links to the profiles and reviews on various physician- review sites. As you’re probably aware, these sites—such as HealthGrades, Vitals.com, RateMDs and RevolutionHealth—let patients rate physicians in several different categories, ranging from punctuality to knowledge to personal demeanor.
Before continuing, let us just state: We have mixed feelings about these sites. As marketers, we see the potential value of these sites for spreading the word about a doctor or practice. But given that the words being spread aren’t always accurate or born of legitimate sources, we have real reservations. It doesn’t take too much study to see that the reviews tend to be too polarized to adequately present a clear view of a physician's overall competence. Typically, people who are most motivated to seek out a site and review a doctor are those who are unsatisfied or upset — or, on the other end of the spectrum, those who absolutely love that doctor. The sites may therefore come closer to a popularity contest than to a source for straight information about a provider.
Secondly, the number of reviews for each doctor is typically inadequate. Oftentimes, the entire reputation of a physician who has spent years treating thousands of patients is being represented by one or two reviewers! Such a paucity of reviewers should render the rating meaningless. But it doesn't. An entire career is reduced down to a rating of 2 out of 5, based on the ratings of one single patient. It just ain't right. Finally, how can anyone even be sure that the reviews are legitimate? It’s too easy to anonymously post reviews and comments, and those doing so might have ulterior motives. Even more frustrating is the fact that in many cases the physician can’t even respond to a negative attack due to privacy laws and duty of confidentiality.
Suffice it to say, if you are not a fan of these sites, we get it. But it doesn't change the cold, hard reality that prospective patients go to these sites and often choose a physician on the basis of these ratings. So, like it or not, you need to know what’s being said about you. Plus, it might be surprising to see the gulf that exists between what patients deem important vs. what your textbooks, ethics training and medical journals tell you is important. You may also want to read what patients are saying about other doctors. Maybe patients laud a particular doctor because of a practice that you too could employ.
In conclusion, like 'em or loathe 'em, these rating sites are probably here to stay. For now, there is much room for improvement before there’s confidence the sites give a complete, accurate evaluation of a physician. But we also know that the Internet is like Las Vegas—what goes on The Net, stays on The Net.
In time, only one or two physician ratings sites will survive. But these survivors will gain traction and acquire a certain gravitas as they accumulate a meaningful corpus of reviewers. Now is the time—while it's still early—to begin safeguarding your reputation.
And so, whereas Shakespeare's Iago is dismissive of reputation, another character in Othello thinks differently. Now comes the lament of Cassio, and here Shakespeare gets it all right: "Reputation, reputation, reputation! Oh, I have lost my reputation! I have lost the immortal part of myself, and what remains is bestial."
We’re here to help. If you have questions about reputation management, brand development, or other healthcare marketing approaches we’d love to hear from you. Connect with us directly, or visit us online to get instant, hassle-free healthcare marketing support from Paramount/MD.