Physician Online Reputations: What Role for Hospitals?

December 13, 2011
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Dr. Bryan Vartabedian has a thoughtful post on 33 charts about online reputation management. He begins:

I spoke to a group of academic physicians recently.  Afterward I was and asked, “Shouldn’t my hospital be responsible for my digital footprint?  I don’t have time to look after that sort of thing.  And wouldn’t it make sense for them to promote my research?”

His four reactions are pretty good:

Dr. Bryan Vartabedian has a thoughtful post on 33 charts about online reputation management. He begins:

I spoke to a group of academic physicians recently.  Afterward I was and asked, “Shouldn’t my hospital be responsible for my digital footprint?  I don’t have time to look after that sort of thing.  And wouldn’t it make sense for them to promote my research?”

His four reactions are pretty good:

  1. Individuals should be responsible, not their institutions –since no one will look after you like you do
  2. Physicians should invest in relationships — to “dig your well before you’re thirsty” because you never know when you’ll need help
  3. Physicians should look for good stories to share with hospital PR/marketing –since this may result in high visibility for modest effort
  4. Institutions should think about their own digital footprints –including encouraging medical staff to record introductory YouTube videos and placing professional profiles on LinkedIn and Doximity

I agree with Vartabedian that academic physicians generally do a pretty poor job of establishing and maintaining a digital presence, and that they could do better with a modicum of effort. But many don’t see it as a high priority and they may well be right. After all their salaries are covered by their institution, they receive recognition among peers for research and publications, and they’ll have plenty of patients as long as their institution maintains a strong brand and flow of patients.

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Hospitals perhaps have the most to gain from Vartabedian’s advice. In particular, they can strengthen the overall positioning of their institutions by encouraging their physicians to have a more active profile outside of the hospital’s own website. Too often when I type in the name of an academic physician to Google the results are dominated by a bunch of fairly useless profiles and ratings by HealthGrades, UCompareHealthCare, EveryDay Health, RateMDs and the like.  Usually there is a bunch of stock information I could get from the white pages along with 2 or 3 ratings from patients. Maybe there’s also a short profile from the academic institution in there somewhere.

How hard would it be for physicians –with encouragement or active assistance from their institution– to build profiles with more interesting and useful information that would climb to the top of Google listings? Not very. Done right, these profiles would include links to colleagues and the institution. Come on fellas, the bar is pretty low!